At the time this article was written John
E. S. Graham was a Research Officer in the Research Branch Library of
"If we really desire to exploit the sea
fully, if it is knowledge that we need to accomplish that purpose. . then we
had better make the necessary costly investment: and put full effort into the
job of acquiring the knowledge. "(1)
Rightly or wrongly, Canada has a reputation
for selling out on resources. Many people feel that for a country which boasts
almost unparalleled wealth in resources, it has very little control over their
development. A feeling exists among many Canadians that Canada has not taken proper
advantage of its privileged resource position in terms of development,
management and conservation and that because of this the Canadian economy
The intricacies of modern trade are
extremely complex and the intent of this paper is not to offer solutions to
existing economic problems or to be judgmental of historical policies. It does
however propose guidelines for the attitude which must colour any decisions
taken concerning the development and conservation of our last resource frontier
– our aquatic or marine resources.
In this respect it is fervently hoped that
the title of this paper does not confound. Resource management is a very
complex problem and solutions are never simple or straightforward. At the
current stage in the development of management science, it must be admitted
that we do not have all the answers. In fact, it could be said that at present
it: is doubtful whether or not we even know all the right questions. It is
suggested however that the adoption of certain basic ecological principles (in
other words the use of a generous amount of good old common sense) and the
development of a co-ordinated, well-funded, multidisciplinary research program
could keep us from repeating the mistakes of the past and enable us to
formulate a rational approach to the development of Canada's marine resources.
Before we talk about the wealth the
mysterious waters of the world conceal or contain, it is important that we
realise that water itself is a precious resource. It should actually be
considered to be much more valuable than oil and treated as such After all, we
can do without oil. We wouldn't be as comfortable, but it must be admitted that
as a simple source of calories or of hydrocarbons used in the production of
synthetic polymers, oil is not indispensable. Water, on the other hand is
essential for the functioning of all life processes. And, as living organisms,
intimately associated with and most definitely not apart from the biosphere, we
are absolutely dependent upon water for our continued survival.
Life on this planet evolved in the water and
in this age of awareness of the past our aquatic roots should never be
forgotten, or even more unforgiveable, denied. Water is a precious resource
which must be recognised as such and treated such. Profligate waste should be
avoided and contamination should be kept minimal.
Unfortunately, many of those who do accept
the idea that water is a vital commodity don't go quite far enough. They
usually think only of freshwater as a valuable resource one that needs
protection. But increasing knowledge of the dynamic role the oceans continue to
play on Earth indicates that marine or saltwater must also be recognised as a
resource which must not be fouled. We left the seas eons ago but they still continue
to affect us directly.
The oceans are not only a provider which can
be harvested occasionally to provide needed materials, and they are most
definitely not an open sewer which can magically make our refuse disappear.
They are a complex system which helps determine the gaseous composition of the
air we breathe and which ultimately regulates meteorological conditions on,
Chemically speaking, the waters of the Earth
contain vast amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide and some oxygen. Biologically
speaking the photosynthetic inhabitants of the ocean produce much of the
atmosphere's oxygen and they remove much of its carbon dioxide by turning it
into carbohydrate. These two processes not: only help control the proportion of
gases; all the inhabitants of this planet respire, but they also indirectly
regulate the Earth's temperature because the latter depends to a large extent:
upon the concentration of gases in the atmosphere.
The proportion of water which exists as a
vapour in the atmosphere, as a liquid on the earth or as a solid in the form of
ice or snow depends on temperature. Bu t the temperature of the Earth depends
to a. large extent on the relative amounts of water in the various states of
matter! Too much water vapour in the air would. have enhanced the greenhouse
effect and trapped additional heat radiation leaving, the Earth, rendering it
permanently, insufferably hot as happened in the case of the planet Venus. Too
much water in the form of ice would have locked the earth into a permanent ice
age. We must recognise then, that for a variety of reasons, the health of the
earth's waters are of paramount importance to our survival. We must husband
this resource carefully because a gross alteration of the hydrological cycle
could bring about a rather abrupt change in the climatic conditions our
geologically recent experience has led us to believe are normal on Earth.
Canada has been blessed with abundant
resources of water. It is bordered on three sides by three oceans and has one
of the longest and most productive coastlines in the world. In addition it
possesses the lion's share of the entire world's freshwater resources. This
liquid wealth is only now beginning to be fully appreciated, but let us hope it
is in time. An inheritance like this must not be squandered.
Canada's Aquatic Resources
Having accepted the fact that the molecule
derived from the union of two hydrogen atoms with one oxygen atom comprises a
valuable resource in itself, we can go much further to see what resources water
contains, supports or hides. Aquatic resources may be categorised in many
different ways but the seas ultimately provide us with energy, minerals and
A. Energy Resources
The waters of this earth are not an inert
wetness which lies passively on the surface of this planet. They constitute a
dynamic force which essentially regulates the meteorological conditions of our
world. The main reason the earth's waters are so influential is that they
possess vast stores of energy; copious amounts of potential energy in the form
of heat and abundant kinetic energy associated with movement.
1. Heat Energy
One tantalising scheme for deriving
utilisable energy from the oceans envisages producing energy by using heat
engines to harness the small temperature variations between the sun-heated
surface of the tropical seas and the cold deep water." (2)
However, as indicated in the quotation, a
usable temperature difference between surface and deep waters is mandatory for
this system to work efficiently, so this scheme is not likely to figure
significantly in Canada's energy future. In fact the location of the sea's most
profitably exploitable thermal resource is roughly estimated to lie only in
"the 1,700 mile-wide region around the equator between the Tropic of
Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer." (3)
2. Tidal Power
By contrast, energy derived from the tides
has a particularly bright prospect in providing Canada with energy derived from
water movement. The highest and strongest tides of the world rush unimpeded
into the Bay of Fundy and with rising oil prices the raw energy of these tides
may soon become economically exploitable.
"The funnel shape of the 145-mile long
bay helps magnify the rushing force of the water as its high tide comes in and
raises the water level as much as fifty-three feet twice a day. The present
Canadian scheme is to build a complex of dams. which would trap large volumes
of water at high tide and send it flowing down into the dam structure to turn
There is presently only one working tidal
power project –a French 240,000 kilowatt (2400 megawatts) installation off
Malo. However, one Canadian proposal for a huge complex generating 13,000
megawatts would make it the single most productive energy source in the world.
Energy is in high demand and a generating
capacity of this magnitude would be a boon to the Canadian energy picture, but
there are many problems associated with harnessing the tides, not the least of
which would be the questionable environmental effects of such a large scale
development. Any project which alters productive coastline or estuarine
ecosystems must not be taken lightly or entered into without massive research
designed to forecast the ultimate biological consequences of environmental
3. Wave Power
The surface of the ocean is almost always in
motion and waves on the ocean's surface contain prodigious amounts of energy.
If this energy could be tapped waves could provide an inexhaustible power
supply. Jerome Williams of the U.S. Naval Academy made the following analysis
of the potential for waves to be tapped as a usable energy source:
"If we consider tides 40 feet high
during a twelve hour period, the power contained per unit of 4 sea surf ace is
about 3 x 10 horsepower per square foot. On the other hand, taking average
waves in the North Atlantic, perhaps 5 feet high sustained during a six second
period, we can expect power densities of about 3 x 102 horsepower per square
foot . Note that the waves – and these are not unusually high waves contain about
a hundred times as much energy per square foot per unit of time as do tides,
making utilisation of the energy in waves somewhat more attractive than that of
Wave power generation is also less likely to
cause environmental damage than other forms of energy production derived from
harnessing the movement of water. In fact, in many places where breakwaters
should be constructed to protect fragile coastlines, wave power generators
could not only produce power but improve the environment as well.
As with any form of power production which
depends upon an intermittent energy source the sea is occasionally calm there
may be significant problems associated with power storage in "down"
periods. However, the prospect of using excess power to carry out electrolysis
of water should solve this problem and allow storage of surplus energy in the
form of hydrogen.
4. Hydroelectric Power
Most of Canada's easily accessible
freshwater hydro potential has been tapped already, although there may still be
some room for expansion. It is expected however that cost/benefit analyses may
soon indicate that further development is not desirable either because of
economic or environmental considerations.
B. Mineral Resources
The waters of the world contain many valuable
minerals in suspension or solution but they also simply cover up vast mineral
wealth. Offshore sources of fossil fuels are accounting for an increasingly
large proportion of world oil and gas production and mineral bearing known as
rich resources of valuable metals. It is inevitable that the significance of
offshore mineral resources will escalate in importance as the technology of
recovery develops and as land-based deposits become depleted.
1 . Minerals
Vast areas of the deep seabed in the central
Atlantic and Pacific oceans are dotted with ferromanganese nodules
potato-shaped mineral deposits that are rich in nickel, copper, cobalt and
manganese. In the Pacific alone these nodules amount to approximately 1.5
trillion tons and they are accumulating at the rate of six million tons per
Presently, Canada does not need to exploit
seabed minerals but our resources should be inventoried so that when mining
does become necessary we will know where the resource lies, and how best to
recover it without damaging the environment.
Concerning rights to aquatic resources,
Canada feels that:
.. coastal states should have sovereign
right over the resources of both seabed and water column out to 200 miles and
jurisdiction over scientific research and conservation..." (7)
but it also agrees that.
... the seabed and its re sources constitute
the 'common heritage of mankind' and belongs to everyone..."(8)
The question of what resources belong to
whom has not yet been settled on the international stage and this is really the
only reason mining of the seabed has not passed the experimental stage. But it
will! And since the recovery of submerged minerals may well represent
"the first attempt to develop an
international management system of some of the earth's resources,"(9)
Canada should develop good resource
management and conservation plans for use within territory of our own
jurisdiction, so that we will be able to offer good management advice and
influence development on a world scale.
In the next one to two decades, there is
every possibility that as much as one-third of the world's oil and gas
production will come from offshore deposits located for the most part on the
continental shelf.(10) Development of offshore sources of fossil fuels will
almost certainly be an essential component of Canada's future energy
development and exploration is currently active in the Arctic and off the
The full extent of our offshore oil and gas
reserves is still unknown; published estimates seem to change rapidly. However,
one thing seems clear. At least some of the deposits will be found in extremely
hostile environments such as under the ice infested waters of northern
Labrador. This means that commercial development may be slow compared with
on-land development since accessibility will depend to a large extent upon
technological innovations which Will allow harsh environments to be coped with
in a safe fashion.
It is important however that we retain the
proper perspective concerning oil and gas development. The "oil era"
will merely constitute a small blip on the time-scale of man's stay on Earth.
It is a short and temporary stage that we of this generation are fortunate or
unfortunate enough to be experiencing. We must continually remind ourselves
that the energy which can be derived from fossil fuels is limited and that this
age. which is characterised by a petroleum based technology, will actually be a
short-lived phenomenon. For this reason it is imperative that no one be left
unconvinced; oil and gas development is beneficial only if it does not disrupt
traditional cultures, undermine the traditional resource base, or irreparably
damage the environment. Surely the "boom-and-bust syndrome has at last
been laid to rest in Canada and we will never again sacrifice long-term
considerations for short-term benefits.
The petroliferous resources of Canada's
offshore may help assure energy self-sufficiency for Canada's future, but when
it comes to priorities, renewable resources must always come first. Someone
must be willing to say, "If oil development in a particular sector poses
too great a risk to the environment to renewable marine resources leave it in
the ground!" This means that if oil. and gas are found in commercial
quantities in the offshore, they must only be developed with cultural,
economic, and environmental priorities kept foremost in mind.
C. Biological Resources
The new ecological awareness of modern
western society has probably arisen out of the realisation that some of the
resources we once thought of as limitless are now entering the declining phase
in production. In other words, it has developed as much out of necessity as out
of enlightenment. Nevertheless, the recent serious shortages of essential
commodities such as oil have made us; newly appreciative of the fundamental.
nature of living systems and have put new emphasis on the importance of
properly, managing renewable resources.
In the main, renewable resources are of
biological origin because only living, systems naturally utilise energy to
recycle material into new and regenerated form. Unfortunately, the importance
of Canada's living aquatic resources has perhaps been neglected over the years
as an important part of the abundant riches this country has to offer. Canada's
wealth of resources is legendary, but as we penetrated the great land mass of
North America and grew and developed apart from the sea, many of us lost sight
of the fact that marine resources are very important to Canada's economic
In any event, by their very nature, Canada's
living aquatic resources are the most important part of the bounty offered us
by the seas. And because of this, all other development, whether it be mineral
or energy, must take place only if it does not adversely affect living
resources. We must not only conserve and preserve species, we must protect the
whole marine ecosystem which collaborates to produce a myriad of useful end
I. The Fishery
Canada boasts some of the richest fishing
grounds in the world but our fishery has not always fared well. For a variety
of reasons such as poor fisheries planning, foreign fishing competition,
outdated equipment, interception of species at the wrong time in their life
cycle and pollution of inland waters, Canada's fisheries have seen some hard
This is most unfortunate but hopefully the
tide has turned. There is some evidence that new harvesting policies,
modernisation of antiquated equipment, and better co-ordinated and conceived
research systems may be beginning to pay off in a more healthy fishery. This is
encouraging and shows that when an effort is made poor situations can be
improved. Certainly, if the right decisions are made, the declaration of the
200mile limit has the potential to allow Canada to better reap the benefits of
its wonderfully rich natural fisheries.
The fishing fleet however is not the only
part of the fishery. Harvesting of shellfish and seaweed is an extremely
important and rewarding endeavour and it seems that these two aspects of
"The Fishery" should become more important as eating tastes change
and as more people become aware of the profits to be made from these practices.
As far as harvesting sea mammals is
concerned, it is difficult to understand why the seal hunt causes such an
outcry. There is no reason to discriminate against the harvesting of a species
based upon its appearance. Ecologically it is difficult to differentiate
between the value of a baby seal and a baby sea cucumber a creature which is
almost universally considered ugly. "Equality before the law", should
apply to all living organisms in terms of whether or not we use them. All
living resources should be managed so that species survival is never
threatened. If we do otherwise we are merely making value judgements which are logically
if not emotionally indefensible
Primitive man has often been described as a
hunter-gatherer; someone who travelled the countryside gathering plants and
hunting animals for sustenance. This is a very inefficient and demanding way to
eke out a living because the ratio of: energy spent searching for food to the
energy derived from the catch is very close to one; no net gain is achieved.
However a few thousand years ago, in one great stride forward, man developed
agriculture and went a long way towards solving this problem. Agriculture
allowed man to store up food reserves for times of famine and it also allowed
him to provide nutritional aid to both plants and animals in the form of food
or water when environmental conditions were harsh. Thus, with food always
available and with comparatively little energy spent in acquiring it, the
cost-benefit ratio diminished rapidly and provided man with free time and
energy to begin the long slow process of developing civilisation.
Unfortunately, when we step off dry land we
revert to our primitive state., In terms of harvesting the sea we are still
essentially hunter-gatherers; more sophisticated than our forbears perhaps, but
nevertheless still hunter-gatherers. This is most regrettable, especially when one
considers the fact that water covers at least seven-tenths of the earth.
Essentially, it means that even though we are living in the twentieth century
we are still reaping the blessings of the major portion of this planet with a
The answer to this longstanding problem lies
in the science of mariculture or aquaculture or sea-farming as it is often
called. Although little large-scale commercial development has taken place,
some organisms do definitely grow quite well under managed conditions but the
potential for sea farming is virtually untapped. There are trout farms, salmon
farms, lobster hatcheries, shellfish farms, etc. , but much more can be done.
For instance the oriental custom of growing several species in an artificial
ecosystem, rather than the Western habit of concentrating on one species ,
produces a more healthy system and generates much better results in the terms
of harvestable biomass.
The seas and inland waters of Canada offer
staggering untapped biological potential for aquaculture However, at present
Canada's waters appear to be either unmanaged or mismanaged. Serious research
into how best to "cultivate" some of our plentiful waters should
assume top priority in our research programs. The world's population is growing
at a tremendous rate. The majority of cultivatable land has been put under the
plough and there is not likely to be another "green revolution in the near
future. Has the time not come then for the "blue revolution"?
Canadians are privileged to live in one of
the most naturally rich nations in the world but many people do not realise
that much of that wealth is intimately associated with either salt or
freshwater. This attitude is changing however. Now that petroleum has become a
scarce commodity on world markets oil exploration is active in offshore areas
and this is forcing us to become much more aware of the full resource potential
of the maritime portions of our country. We are only just beginning to
recognise that although Canada has rich land-based resources, the future may
well lie with the seas.
Much of the world's oil will soon come from
offshore sources and mining for minerals may, soon be necessary as certain
land-based deposits become depleted. From a biological point of view, the seas can
provide a cornucopia of materials which may help feed the ever-increasing,
number of hungry human stomachs. But all. the benefits which may be derived
must be acquired only after intensive research has been carried out about how
best to procure the resources without disturbing the myriad life forms
supported by the seas.
All nonliving material which is deemed
necessary to support civilisation must be produced in a manner which does not
threaten living material. This must be our credo, not because of an altruistic
sense of responsibility, but because it makes good common sense. If the waters
of the earth can offer renewable resources indefinitely, we must not jeopardise
them by producing non-renewable resources in an irresponsible manner.
The future is not ours. It belongs to our
descendants! Our responsibility is to develop and conserve marine resources, so
that they will not only provide much needed materials now but continue to do so
1. Lionel Walford, Living Resources of
the Sea: Opportunities for Research and Expansion, Ronald, 1958.
2. Mark Swann, "Power from the
Sea", in Jonathan Bartlett ed., The Ocean Environment, The Reference
Shelf Series, Vol. 48, No. 6, 1976, p. 55.
3. Ibid., p. 58.
4. "Tide Power for Canada", in Jonathan
Bartlett ed., The Ocean Environment, The Reference Shelf Series, Vol.
48, No 6, 1976, p. 65.
5. Raymond Schuessler, "Wave
Energy" in Jonathan Bartlett ed. The Ocean Environment, The Reference
Shelf Series, Vol. 48, No. 6, 1976,, p. 68.
6. Canada, Department of External Affairs,
Information and Legal Operations Divisions, The Future of the Oceans,
Ottawa, 1975, p. 13.
7. Canada, External Affairs, Bureau of
Public Affairs, Canada and the Law of the Sea, rev. ed., 1977, p. 32.
8. Ibid., p. 31.
9 Ibid., p. 31.
10. Canada, Department of External Affairs,
Information and Legal Operations Divisions, The Future of the Oceans,
Ottawa, 1975, p. 7.