lack of information about ocean contaminants, health of Canadian aquatic environments in jeopardy, gap in scientific capacity
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) cut labs and scientists who study pollution and contamination. The Ocean Contaminants and Marine Toxicology program was axed in 2012, closing DFO labs in five locations and laying off 55 scientists and staff who studied many aspects of pollution, including toxic chemical build-ups in marine mammals and fish. The government replaced the program with an advisory group and a small research fund for academics.
One scientist who lost his job was Peter Ross, Canada's only marine mammal toxicologist. Ross, an expert on killer whales and other marine mammals at the now-defunct Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island, studied everything from municipal sewage and contaminated sites to the effect of pesticides on salmon and the impact of PCBs on killer whales.
“The entire pollution file for the government of Canada, and marine environment in Canada’s three oceans, will be overseen by five junior biologists scattered across the country — one of whom will be stationed in B.C.,” said Ross.
DFO spokeswoman Melanie Carkner said between Fisheries and the Canadian Coast Guard, about $79.3 million in savings had been found “primarily by adjusting our internal operations and administration… In lieu of in-house research on the biological effects of contaminants and pesticides, the department will establish an advisory group and research fund of $1.4 million a year to work with academia and other independent facilities to get advice on priority issues.”