World Oceans DayPublished on 8 June 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:
Honourable senators, on this World Oceans Day, I rise to speak about the Sargasso Sea, which gets its name from the distinctive mats of floating Sargassum algae; it’s the so-called “golden rainforest of the ocean.”
The Sargasso Sea is the world’s only non-landlocked body of water, located within the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream, on the north by the North Atlantic Drift, on the east by the Canary Current and on the south by the North Equatorial Current. It’s an area of more than 4 million square kilometres.
It’s a sanctuary of biodiversity which supports a range of endemic species and plays a critical role in supporting the life cycle of a number of threatened and endangered species, such as the porbeagle shark, billfish, several species of turtle, migratory birds and cetaceans. The Sargassum algae mats provide a protective “nursery” for juvenile fish and loggerhead sea turtles. Wahoo, tuna and other pelagic fish also forage in and migrate through this sea, as do a number of whale species, notably the sperm whale and the humpback.
It’s also the spawning area for all American and European eels, which then spend their lives in fresh water and migrate thousands of miles back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. I would advise that these eels, including their elver stage, are a valuable regulated fishery in the Maritime provinces, providing jobs and enhancing our economies.
The Sargasso Sea is under increasing pressure by countless human uses that threaten the habitat and the species it supports. It is faced with several stressors that threaten the long-term viability and health of its ecosystem, such as oil, bilge and ballast water discharge from ships, and concentrations of non-biodegradable plastic waste from ships and land-based sources.
Honourable senators may have heard of the Sargasso Sea Commission, which is a partnership led by the Government of Bermuda in collaboration with other countries, scientists, international marine conservation agencies, marine institutions and private donors. Its members share a mission to protect and manage this unique and vulnerable ocean ecosystem, and to have it established as a Marine Protected Area by way of a declaration signed by supporting countries and international organizations. This Hamilton Declaration was initially signed in Hamilton, Bermuda, on March 11, 2014, by a number of countries, including Bermuda, the United Kingdom and the United States. The commission has a full-time secretariat in Hamilton, Bermuda, and an adjunct office in Washington, D.C.
In closing, honourable senators, it is my hope that Canada will join in this effort to protect the Sargasso Sea and that Canada will be a signatory to the Hamilton Declaration. I humbly ask all honourable senators to canvass friends and colleagues to ensure that Canada, a tri-ocean-bound country, supports the Sargasso Sea protection initiative and becomes a signatory to the Hamilton Declaration.
I invite all honourable senators to visit the website of the commission at www.sargassoalliance.org to learn the importance of protecting this precious and unique open-ocean ecosystem.