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Environment | Media Release

Media Release: PollutionTracker Sheds Light on Contamination in Coastal B.C.

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Results and data from PollutionTracker — a coast-wide marine pollution monitoring program created by Ocean Wise — are now available online to stakeholders and the general public at

PollutionTracker Tsawwassen Sediment Collection Media Release (02/07/2018) Vancouver, BC - "Knowledge is key when it comes to protecting our oceans," said Dr. Peter Ross, vice-president of Research at Ocean Wise and executive director of the Coastal Ocean Research Institute. "PollutionTracker fills a void in our understanding of the health of the coastal environment and identifies emerging pollution issues. By making the information freely available, we hope it will help guide solutions to human-caused impacts on ocean life."

PollutionTracker collection

PollutionTracker was funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Prince Rupert Port Authority, the Capital Regional District, Metro Vancouver and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation; provided in-kind support by other First Nations and organizations; and includes the work of citizen scientists. Between 2015 and 2017, Ocean Wise researchers worked with First Nations, community groups, port authorities, and government agencies to collect samples of mussels and nearshore ocean sediments from 55 coastal locations, and analyzed those samples at partnering laboratories.

"Creating real and positive environmental change takes shared leadership, commitment and collaboration. The PollutionTracker Project is a clear demonstration of this and we are very proud to be one of the founding partners of this important initiative," said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. "A key priority for us is the work towards improving conditions for southern resident killer whales and other species at risk through our ECHO Program. From the Pollution Tracker Project, we can gain a better understanding of the health of our oceans, which is critical for improving Canada's marine ecosystems, and provides important information for the work of the ECHO Program."

Researchers found pollutants in all samples from coastal British Columbia, including widespread distribution of persistent contaminants such as PCBs, PBDEs and dioxins, and localized presence of some pharmaceuticals, current use pesticides, and other emerging contaminants.

Some key highlights of the program to date:

· High PCB levels in some B.C. and Washington State sediments can contaminate marine food webs, and partly explain why the southern resident killer whales are among the most PCB-contaminated marine mammals in the world. PollutionTracker helps pinpoint hotspots and track progress.

· High levels of hydrocarbons are found in B.C. ports and harbours. Further fingerprinting of hydrocarbon profiles will enable the distinction between natural and human origins of these pollutants, help identify specific sources, and generate a critical baseline in the case of an oil spill.

· Victoria harbour is a vulnerable receiving environment, being a shallow body of water with low circulation and sedimentation. This partly explains the high levels of many harmful pollutants, including alkylphenols, dioxins, PCBs, PBDEs, pharmaceuticals and hydrocarbons. Of the 55 PollutionTracker sites rated coast-wide, Victoria harbour sites dominated the top five list of polluted sediments and mussels.

"Pollution threatens the health of ocean life and of all of us," said Dr. Ross. "Over time, regular PollutionTracker monitoring will help track progress and inform source control, best practices, remediation and regulations." As an example of successful management responses, he pointed to past studies of harbour seals that revealed that PCB levels have dropped by 80 per cent over the last four decades, while emissions of dioxins to coastal B.C. are down 95 per cent since the implementation of pulp mill regulations in 1989. "With high quality, comparable, and accessible contaminant data we can take action to support a healthy coastal environment. As the first initiative to generate such data along the B.C. Coast, PollutionTracker will be a vital tool for those seeking to protect the ocean from our activities on land and at sea."

The program has received support from multiple levels of government.

"Our government is investing in research so that we can better understand and mitigate stressors in our environment and protect our oceans and marine life for future generations," said the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. "The data from this program will help us make informed, science-based decisions to support sustainable fisheries and maintain healthy ecosystems, particularly for the Southern Resident Killer Whale."

Ocean Wise launched on World Ocean's Day as a global ocean conservation organization focused on protecting and restoring our world's oceans. Building on the roots of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, which started as a community-based not-for-profit organization, Ocean Wise aims to inspire people in every corner of the planet to participate in creating healthy oceans. The Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI) conducts research in support of a healthy coastal environment in British Columbia.

Coastal Ocean Research Institute An Ocean Wise initiative, the Coastal Ocean Research Institute was established to measure and monitor the health of coastal ecosystems and to produce and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding about Canada's West Coast.

Ocean Wise®
Ocean Wise is a not-for-profit organization whose vision is a world in which oceans are healthy and flourishing.


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