June 8 marks World Oceans Day, a global observance day dedicated to raising awareness of, and celebrating, the world's oceans. Oceans cover more than 70% of Earth's surface, yet 80% of these great bodies of water remain unmapped. As an organization, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) operates in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. We strive to contribute to the global body of knowledge by supporting research and conservation efforts, and continuing to respect the environments where we live and work - on land and at sea.
Read on for more information about our ongoing initiatives and exciting progress!
Supporting Marine Research
Irving Shipbuilding has a long history of supporting marine research, not only on Canada's East Coast, but in the North Atlantic Ocean. In 2016, the company confirmed support for 6 research projects in partnership with Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR). These included Julie Laroche's project on engaging industry vessels to advance ocean science (see the video below), and Max Liboiron's work regarding monitoring marine plastic in Canada's North. Irving Shipbuilding has also partnered with the Nunavut Research Institute (NRI) to provide $2 million in funding for 9 new Arctic research projects.
For more on these projects, see:
In recent years, Atlantic Towing Limited (ATL) has partnered with the researchers at Dalhousie University to install sensors on one of its Offshore Vessels that would enable the ship to collect observations from continental shelf waters on Canada's East Coast. This program advances both the Voluntary Observer Ships (VOS) Program and the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) network initiative - both spearheaded by Dalhousie researchers with funding support from Irving Shipbuilding..
The new sensors actively monitor ocean conditions, measuring temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gasses. In addition, the vessel has been outfitted with a holographic microscope for identifying plankton and acoustic transponders for measuring ocean current velocities. On-board atmospheric measurements will yield new insights into climate change and marine visibility research, while a remotely-operated vehicle may be used to explore the sea floor and collect samples for testing in future.
This partnership is incredibly valuable to researchers because customized, designated research vessels are costly to build and operate. By leveraging a commercial vessel that regularly traverses regions of interest to the research team - in this case, the Scotian Shelf - the desired data becomes available at a far more attainable expense.
"The [sensors] have no effect whatsoever on ships' operations, and must pass all applicable safety standards," said Doug Wallace of Dalhousie University. His team worked with ATL over the summer months to outfit the vessel, the Atlantic Condor , with those sensors.
“This project could not have been achieved without the tremendous effort put forth by the crew of the Atlantic Condor," added Wallace. "The support and cooperation from all team members has enabled Atlantic Towing to provide valuable data for the research community, and demonstrate our commitment to emerging environmental initiatives.”
Protecting Marine Life
In addition to funding research, Irving Shipbuilding and ATL are actively involved in protecting marine life.
Irving Shipbuilding works with the Atlantic Reef Ball Program which builds, installs, and monitors artificial reefs in Atlantic Canada in an effort to improve and restore coastal marine habitats. The artificial reef structures are designed to establish quality habitats that will draw a variety of marine species into coastal zones and contribute to the growth of coastal ecosystems. Through this partnership, 100 Reef Balls were installed in two locations in the Halifax Harbour in Nova Scotia, resulting in the creation of 16,700 square meters of marine habitat.
Irving Shipbuilding also works to build a better future for our oceans by educating children & youth by supporting events like the H2O Conference in Nova Scotia, and through its work with the Marine People Partnership and the COVE Ocean Literacy Toolkit -which allows teachers across Canada to inspire students to be curious about the ocean and the wealth of ocean related careers and opportunities available to them.
Each vessel in ATL's fleet - tugboat or offshore vessel - is equipped with a copy of A Mariner's Guide to Whales in the Northwest Atlantic, a guidebook that helps crew members identify and steer clear of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals they might encounter while at-sea. Large posters provide additional information, like common whale population distribution maps, critical habitat zones and contact numbers for reporting marine mammal observations, incidents or sightings to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"If you see tail, fin or spray - stay far enough away!"
ATL vessels take additional precautions, complying with mandated or advised speed reduction zones and avoiding regions known to have dense populations of marine life (voluntary avoidance areas). The business goes above and beyond to relay these recommendations and regulations to the vessels and their crews, and it participates in various marine wildlife observance programs.
ATL is a Green Marine certified organization, and has maintained this accreditation since 2008. Green Marine is a voluntary, transparent and inclusive program encompassing ship owners, ports, seaways, terminals and shipyards across North America. To qualify, organizations benchmark their annual performance against 12 key environmental indicators. These include greenhouse gas emissions, environmental leadership, community impact, and underwater noise, among others. Over the 11 years since becoming a Green Marine organization, ATL has increased its efforts to drive environmental performance, specifically relating to marine wildlife awareness and reducing underwater noise. A Marine Mammal Management Program is currently in development.
In addition, ATL meets the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 14001, a voluntary standard that specifies requirements and a framework for an effective environmental management system.
Learn something? Want to know more? Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram using the hashtags #WorldOceansDay and #TogetherWeCan. We can't wait to hear from you!