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Protecting B.C.’s Marine Mammals From Land-based Pollution

Live-streamed On World Oceans Day - May 8, 2014

Watch the video above to see an insightful talk on how we can better protect our marine mammals from urban water pollution.  Two experts shared their knowledge of land-based water pollution: how pollution affects aquatic life and how pollution into the aquatic environment can be reduced.   

Nearly 15 years after our discovery that British Columbia’s killer whales are among the world’s most contaminated marine mammals, we have learned a great deal about where these chemicals came from and the risks that they pose to killer whale health. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can be found at surprisingly high levels in creatures at the top of food chains, even in remote reaches of the Arctic. Many of these chemicals were banned decades ago, underscoring their persistence in the environment. Have we learned from these past mistakes? Are we doing a better job now with regard to chemical regulation and management, source control and disposal? Dr. Peter Ross helps tell this story with a lot of help from his most trusted colleagues: those marine mammals that cooperated with his field research.

The traditional way to deal with urban runoff is to convey the stormwater directly into urban streams without treatment for contaminants. Similarly, in Vancouver, many of the contaminants contained in urban wastewater are released into local rivers and the ocean in the hope that the natural dilution will not harm the aquatic biota. Recent studies, however, have shown that many contaminants are problematic to aquatic organisms even at low concentration. Dr. Hans Shreier shows the type of pollution originating from urban runoff and how new, innovative methods can significantly reduce urban discharge of contaminants. Examples are shown of how individual land owners can contribute to reducing pollution and how municipal authorities can deal with runoff from roads and parking lots. The need for new innovative approaches is particularly critical in view of increased urban densification and increased climatic variability.



About The Speakers


Dr. Peter Ross is the Director of the Ocean Pollution Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium.  In more than 25 years of marine pollution research, he pioneered new techniques to evaluate the effects of persistent pollutants on the health of marine mammals. He has led groundbreaking studies on the health of B.C.’s iconic killer whales, on the effects of flame retardants on beluga whales, on the presence of hydrocarbons in sea otters and their habitat, on trends in priority pollutants in harbour seals, on the impacts of currently used pesticides on the health of salmon, and on the identification of emerging pollutants in sentinel species.  He is an international expert in the area of ocean pollution, having published more than 120 scientific articles and book chapters.


Dr. Hans Schreier is a professor in the Faculty of Land & Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on watershed management, land-water interactions, soil and water pollution, stormwater management and virtual water issues. He has worked extensively in watershed studies in the Himalayas and the Andean regions, and in Brazil, Honduras, Vietnam, Mongolia, as well as in British Columbia. In 1996 he was recognized by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) for his contribution to improve water resources management in the developing world. In 1999 he received the Manaaki Whenua Fellowship Award from Landcare Research in New Zealand.  He completed the Himalayan-Andean Watershed Project, which resulted in the production of 9 multi-media CD-ROMs that highlighted and compared watershed projects in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Bhutan, Nepal, and China. In 2000 he developed a WEB-based Certificate Program in Watershed Management that consists of 5 courses for graduate students and professionals from around the world by distance. So far over 1300 individuals from 24 different countries have participated in the program. From 2003-2007 he was Co-Leader of the Watershed Program of the Canadian Water Network National Centre of Excellence and was a member of the Water Advisory Panel for the Columbia Basin Trust.

In 2004 he received the “Science in Action” Award from The United Nations International Year of Fresh Water, Science & Education Program, for outstanding work in making watershed management knowledge available in Canada and in Developing Countries. In 2008 he received the King Albert International Mountain Award for scientific accomplishment of lasting values to the world’s mountains. King Albert I Memorial Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland.


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