October 28, 2015 7:02 pm
Updated: October 28, 2015 10:55 pm

Unprecedented changes in the Arctic prompt action from the Vancouver Aquarium

WATCH: The Vancouver Aquarium is raising more concerns about global warming. As Linda Aylesworth reports, some scientists are predicting an ice-free Arctic in as little as 15 years.

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Canada’s rapidly changing Arctic will soon have even stronger worldwide impacts.

The majority of Canadians live far from the increasingly acidic Arctic waters – far from where global warming is occurring at twice the rate of the rest of the planet.

But ‘out of sight’ does not mean ‘out of mind.’

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is expanding its northern focus at both the aquarium, as well as in its field research, to bring critical awareness about changes in the north to the public.

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“The Arctic is melting. What used to be ice is becoming open water. Now, huge previously inaccessible areas are now open to all sorts of human activity – navigation, shipping, mining, oil and gas exploration, tourism and research,” said Dr. Valeria Vergara, research associate at the aquarium.

As scientific and economic development increases in the north, sea levels continue to rise worldwide. To draw attention to the issue, the aquarium’s Marine Science Centre held a briefing in the shoreline waters off Sunset Beach today.

READ MORE: 2015 Arctic sea ice minimum fourth lowest on record

During the partially submerged briefing, Vergara addressed concerns concluded from her field work – suggesting that rising sea levels are just the tip of the iceberg.

“The Arctic is becoming a very noisy place for underwater animals, such as Beluga whales,” she said.

Belugas communicate with each other via low frequency sounds called contact calls. The calls are essential to their survival – especially in the winter, when darkness falls for months on end. As human traffic increases in beluga territory, contact calls have become disrupted between mama belugas and calves.

Dr. John Nightingale, the CEO and president of the aquarium echoes Vergara’s concerns, stressing that accessible information for visitors is a top priority.

 “The aquarium’s commitment – because we have the capacity to engage millions of people per year either at the aquarium or digitally, is to focus and refocus again on telling these stories to help make all of us aware of what is happening and why it matters.”

Although Vancouverites have easy access to the aquarium to educate themselves about the Arctic, Vergara hopes people will take measures one step further and encourage governmental decisions that will help marine wildlife.

In a press release, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Science Centre reported that 2030 might be the first ice-free year for the Arctic.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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