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'We’re at a critical point': New speaker series on ocean health highlights ways to make a difference

Ocean Ambassadors Canada virtual event starts on March 10
Ocean health
Ridgeview Elementary student Ashlee Chmelauskas gathers marine debris during an Ocean Ambassadors Canada program in 2018. The organization is launching a new Ocean Health Speaker Series on March 10.
For those who feel like there’s a wide gulf between loving the ocean and actually making an impact on ocean health, a new speaker series might be able to get you to the other side.  

Ocean Ambassadors Canada’s upcoming virtual Ocean Health Speaker Series, which commences on March 10 with a number of free sessions booked to mid-July, will look at everything from the importance of green waste management and banning single-use items, to the life of a marine biologist knee deep in whale guts.

“We’ve been really fortunate to build relationship with all of these speakers,” said Alison Wood, co-founder of the North Shore-based Ocean Ambassadors organization.

Among the many speakers lined up are: a fisheries and aquaculture expert who posits what the role of seaweed and shellfish will be in the future of food; a marine biologist with a passion for sharing her knowledge of marine life and the importance of ocean health; a member of the City of Victoria’s Zero Waste Team; the CEO of Return-It, the biggest used beverage container management program in Canada; and an engineer with Metro Vancouver.

Karen Storry, a senior engineer with Metro’s Solid Waste Services, will kick off the speaker series with a presentation on how policy and new business models can help reduce single-use plastics.

“I think what is going to be really great about Karen is she’s going to provide a wonderful overview on what’s happening in Metro Vancouver, and by extension she’ll talk about what’s happening in the province and Canada,” said Wood.

Storry is the lead for the Metro region’s single-use item reduction work. It’s her job to research how we can reduce plastic waste through circular economy programs, policies and business practices, according to Wood.

Besides Ocean Ambassadors’ work hosting summer camp programs and virtual classroom education, the organization, along with other community partners, were among the first in the country to successfully lobby some communities to ditch harmful single-use items such as straws and plastic bags.

Ocean Ambassadors helped implement a plastic straw ban in Deep Cove in 2018, a plastic bag ban in Horseshoe Bay in 2019, as well as a plastic bag ban in Edgemont Village in early 2020.

“We thought that if we could bring multiple people together from a variety of different areas or roles in supporting our ocean, and expose people to those different roles, we could inspire them to get engaged,” said Wood, of the speaker series. “We believe very strongly that the health of the ocean is the health of the planet. We’re at a critical point.”

The Ocean Health Speaker Series is sponsored by the West Vancouver Foundation. The free events will take place on the second Wednesday of each month from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. via Zoom video conferencing.

Visit the Ocean Ambassadors’ website to learn more about the speakers or to register for an event.