Contaminated Killer Whales, Plastics & Ocean Pollution
Dr. Peter Ross is an internationally recognized ocean pollution expert working as a senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
It was a the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it is absolutely heartbreaking. It is approximately twice the size of Texas, and some of the plastics in the patch is 50 years old.According to National Geographic, 80% of the plastics come from land-based sources - meaning they were dumped in the ocean. This has far-reaching effects for the creatures that call the ocean home.
Personally, I feel I have a responsibility to be a good steward for our land. That means understanding the problems we are facing, and hearing from the experts. Paul van Westendorp highlights the challenges we face keeping our bee populations up. He says to increase bumblebee populations, all farmers need to do is leave some bushes and plants for the bees to return to. This will make sure they have enough food for the winter. The farmers he shared this information said it isn’t worth it the investment. From their perspective, they can plant their crops, and make a financial return. Dean Werk highlights the damage that ATV’s can cause on complex ecosystems. He reminds us that we need to be gentle with mother earth.
Now, it was time to understand what we are doing to our oceans. I am always looking around for potential guests, and I stumbled upon Raincoast Conservation Foundation. On their website they state:
“Raincoast is a team of scientists and conservationists empowered by our research to safeguard the land, waters, and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats”.
Through this, I discovered Dr. Peter S. Ross, who is an internationally recognized ocean pollution expert working as a senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. I began watching his videos, and the research he has been involved with and was absolutely fascinated. I was eager to invite Dr. Ross on the podcast to hear about his research findings and his journey into this field of work. The other thought that ran through my mind, was whether he had hope or whether he was pessimistic on the direction we are going. If you type in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch into google images, it is easy to think things are only going to get worse. Does Dr. Peter Ross, an expert in ocean pollution, think we can save our ocean?
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Dr. Peter Ross discovered the region’s killer whales to be the most ‘contaminated marine mammals in the world’ in a groundbreaking study, and reported on the widespread distribution of micro-plastics in the NE Pacific and Arctic oceans. Dr. Ross is a Senior Scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation, where he is developing a new community-oriented Healthy Waters Program. It was surreal to have the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Peter Ross.
Raincoast and Dr. Ross are developing a Healthy Waters Program. On their website, they remind us that water is essential for life, yet it is being polluted. They state:
“Water is essential for life and is shared among all living things. Water creates and sustains healthy habitats for salmon and for killer whales, and provides drinking water for people. From pesticides to tire particles in salmon streams, from PCBs in killer whales to microplastics in zooplankton, from bacteria to lead in tap water – we are all impacted by water pollution”.
Their plan is to develop a collaborative framework to monitor water pollution within communities with a clear plan in partnership with water stewards, community members and Indigenous communities. Currently, they are focused on Fraser River and Salish Sea watersheds, with the hope to expand across British Columbia. They are seeking meaningful collaboration with various stakeholders at all stages of the process.
In our conversation Dr. Ross explains the challenges our oceans face, the effects of pollution on wildlife in the ocean, who holds the blame. We also talk about when he developed a passion for the environment, going from someone who hated school to getting a PhD, ocean pollution, the Inuit, and what everyday people can do to help address the problems we face.
In preparation for this interview, one of my biggest questions was how someone can study this topic and not feel somewhat depressed. Ocean pollution is nearly all humans faults, and we seem to take two steps forward and one step back. He talks about how we have hundreds of thousands of chemicals, yet only really understand the effects of a small few of them. When you find out beautiful majestic creatures like Killer Whales are contaminated, and birds are eating plastics and starving to death it can be difficult to process.
Yet, I felt a strong sense of optimism from Dr. Peter Ross. Why? How? In my view, it is because he is uncovering the problems and sharing the information in the best way he can. I think he carries on, because he is doing what he can to be part of the solution. I found Peter to be absolutely inspirational, telling people they absolutely can make a difference, and that we NEED them too. With all the challenges we face, I think we are up to the task and I believe Dr. Ross feels the same way. It is time to put on our boots, roll up our sleeves, and GET INVOLVED. If you would like to get involved you can:
Support the work Peter Ross and Raincoast Conservation Foundation are doing by donating to their website: https://www.raincoast.org/donate/
Become a member of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society or Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance.
Join a Vedder River Clean Up Society, Vancouver Plastic Cleanup Program, or join the Adopt a River Program in Chilliwack.
Recycle and shop ethically.
Take Care Tuesday:
“I remember as a five-year-old watching black and white television and seeing air pollution in Tokyo which was very topical when I was a kid. I saw smog, and the traffic police were wearing gas masks. As a five-year-old, I became alarmed that maybe if this continued, our entire planet would become enshrouded in air pollution and smog, and we would need to basically import our oxygen to be able to breathe or wear these crazy masks.” – Peter Ross
A spark of inspiration can change the entire course of your life. Although it is not exactly clear as to why some people care deeply about a topic than others, it is important to explore what you love because you could be the change the world needs to see. Nurturing our passions is what gives us meaning in life, and Peter Ross is an excellent example of someone who didn’t allow his passion to slip away. Today, he is an internationally recognized ocean pollution expert working hard to ensure we have a healthy planet for many years to come.
“You’re as powerful as you want to be.” – Peter Ross
According to Peter Ross, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what level of education you have - we are all capable of creating positive change within our environment and for future generations. Our environment is everything that keeps us alive. From the water we drink, the ecosystems that live within our oceans, the food we eat, the air we breathe, our shelter - the environment helps us survive. When we take care of our environment, we are taking care of ourselves, our neighbours, our friends, and family, and for future generations to prosper. If we spoil what we have on this planet, we will suffer the consequences of our actions. If we take care of nature, then nature will also take care of us in return. Almost all our activities affect the ecosystem in one way or the other. If we negatively impact the ecosystem, we put various species on the verge of extinction. For instance, if we pollute the ocean with plastic or leaked oil, we kill the species that live there. Since nature is the source of our livelihood, it’s only right that we should also be kind to it. Taking care of our environment means that we believe in our ability to thrive, not just survive.
Here are 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Earth:
Don’t send chemicals into our waterways. Instead, choose nontoxic chemicals in the home and office.
Conserve water. The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater that eventually end up in the ocean.
Drive less. Instead, bike, walk, or carpool.
Educate yourself. When you further your own education, you can help others understand the importance and value of our natural resources.
Shop wisely. Buy less plastic and bring a reusable shopping bag.