By Ben Scheelk, Program Associate, The Ocean Foundation
Silence. The pure, unadulterated, deafening silence that makes one feel as if you are in a vacuum. That is my lasting impression of a little corner of British Columbia’s Strait of Georgia aptly named “Desolation Sound.”
Amid the violet and tangerine sea stars, the curious harbor seals that watch you with black penetrating eyes as deep and dark as the ancient fjords which line the idyllic coast, and in the absence of contrails, the sound of traffic, and nearly all signs of civilization, I found myself bathed in the serenity—and frequent showers—of this vast marine wilderness during a recent visit. The experience has put me in the intimate company of one of The Ocean Foundation’s Friends of Funds: the Friends of Georgia Strait Alliance.
For over two decades, the Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA), a Vancouver Island-based organization, has been “the only citizen’s group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia—the place where most British Columbians live, work, and play.” Throughout their existence, GSA has fought tirelessly for the protection of this unique marine paradise, achieving moratoriums on salmon aquaculture operations, demanding improved industry practices, advocating for better sewage treatment, promoting the establishment of new National Marine Conservation Areas, and leading an award-winning campaign on “Green Boating.”
Working to “increase public understanding and win public policy changes on issues like pulp and sewage pollution, oil spill risks, loss of critical estuary habitat and salmon streams, salmon farming impacts and the need for protection of marine habitat,” GSA is a highly-regarded fixture at major conferences regarding the Strait, and a supporter and pioneer of scientific studies, advocacy campaigns, stewardship activities, and legal actions. From protecting orca whales, to preserving the integrity of this wild and productive ecosystem, GSA is leading efforts to ensure this invaluable resource is maintained for the human and wildlife communities, which inhabit this vast wilderness, for generations to come.
Since 2004, The Ocean Foundation has provided fiscal sponsorship support to The Georgia Strait Alliance, which has given the organization the ability to raise tax-deductible support from donors, private foundations, and government sources within the United States. While traveling in British Columbia, I contacted GSA after spending several days kayaking and camping throughout the Strait to reflect on my experience and thank them for all their efforts to protect this amazing place. Michelle Young, the organization’s financial coordinator, echoed my impressions and agreed that she too has often “refueled [her] spirit paddling and boating Desolation Sound and Georgia Strait.”
As the threats to this ecosystem multiply, and climate change is poised to alter the biogeochemical cycles critical to the health and stability of the region’s food web, The Ocean Foundation is pleased to have a strong collaborator in the Georgia Strait Alliance to address the many environmental issues facing the area and to develop science-based, community-driven approaches to protecting this important place.
Back in Washington D.C., the controlled chaos of urban living often seems to drown out the sounds of nature. But, when the sirens are blaring, the car lights are blinding, the stifling heat of a swamp-turned-city is oppressive, and the ocean seems so far away, I try to escape to that remote spot in British Columbia, where the raindrops break the glassy surface like a million crystalline fountains, the gauzy blue silhouette of the coastal range scratches at the low cloud ceiling, and the only sound, is nothing at all.
The Georgia Strait Alliance works with The Ocean Foundation as one of our “Friends of Funds,” a pre-approved grant relationship that enables international organizations to seek support from U.S. funders. To learn more about the Friends of Fund model and the Fiscal Sponsorship Program at The Ocean Foundation, please visit us at: http://www.oceanfdn.org/ocean-conservation-projects/fiscal-sponsorship. Also, if you are in the area, please support GSA at their upcoming special event, “An Evening With the Strait,” taking place on October 24, 2013 in Victoria, BC. For more details, please visit the event page on their website:http://www.georgiastrait.org/?q=node/1147.