Ocean's Week Halifax kicks off online

Trivia, a virtual fish dissection and a keynote address with Future Ancestors

click to enlarge HANNAH EMMETT ARTWORK
Hannah Emmett Artwork
As if it was preordained, the United Nations theme for World Oceans Week 2020 is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean”.

While the UN likely chose this theme to highlight the new and exciting ocean technologies that are changing the way scientists understand the ocean (including underwater sampling gliders captained by Dalhousie University here in the North West Atlantic), in these unprecedented times, innovation has a new meaning.

We’ve all been innovating. Designing digital yoga classes, refining the art of hosting on zoom, or delivering online counselling. It is in the spirit of innovation Alexandra Vance—one of the co-founders of Oceans Week Halifax which kicks off today and runs until June 14—decided to transition Oceans Week online.

“We didn’t want our community to have to postpone celebrating the ocean—especially since it’s the ocean that connects us all, even during these socially distant times” says co-founder Vance.

“We realized that forming a sense of community with people is the most important thing right now, and we are going to do our best by coming together (virtually) for Oceans Week 2020.”

Among the online events are film screenings, panel discussions, ocean craft tutorials, ocean trivia, photo contests, to name a few. While Vance is looking forward to all the events, they are most excited about the keynote event with Future Ancestors—Indigenous and Black-owned social enterprise that advances climate justice.

Last year, Halifax had more oceans week events than any city in the world, and this year it seems not even a pandemic can dry up Nova Scotians’ enthusiasm for the ocean.

During Oceans Week this year, reporting has shown nature getting some relief: clear skies over our smog blanketed cities, and overall declines in emissions have drawn comparisons to the collapse of the Soviet Union after 1991. The ocean too, has been experiencing a reduction in human impact and is experiencing a kind of calm. With the decline of international shipping, ocean noise has become muffled in some areas of the world, even by around 50 percent along parts of the BC coast. Save for the brief silence following the 9/11 attacks, the ocean has not been this quiet in 150 years.

In a quieter ocean, hunting, foraging, navigating and mating are all easier for so many marine species. This relative silence will not last, but it provides a unique opportunity for scientists to observe how marine life operates with dampened human impact. To preserve, we must understand.

There is something beautiful about how this year on World Oceans Day we can give the ocean a break.

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