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Species at risk in waters off Parksville Qualicum Beach double

The number of species at risk in the waters off Parksville Qualicum Beach has doubled in the last 10 years, according to a SeaDoc report unveiled at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle last week.

The report states that scientists recorded 119 at-risk species in 2013, up from 60 in 2002 — leading environmentalists to call for a special international body to co ordinate research and conservation in the three bodies of water that make up the Salish Sea: the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

"The border is a false line," said SSEC executive director Christianne Wilhelmson. "We (Canada and the United States) need to connect."

Wilhelmson said the conference brought together “all types of people with a passion for the Salish Sea” including policy makers, scientists and environmentalists in an effort to form connections and strengthen relations.

“We need more conversations to happen between our governments,” said Wilhelmson. “We need to understand each others laws around these shared waters.”

Wilhelmson said ocean acidification was a major theme of the conference, a pertinent issue in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area after approximately 10 million scallops were killed earlier this year forcing a local shellfish producer to scale back operations considerably.

"It's a horrible image of what climate change can do," she said of the unstable shellfish industry. "Climate change is here now — it's not something of the future it's now."

Wilhelmson said climate change, fossil fuel exports and pollutants were also topical issues and attendees are calling on government to form some type of trans boundary organization to preserve the Salish Sea.

"We have species that are endangered in Canada but not in the U.S.," she said. "We need to be treating this body of water the same way — how can one species cross the boarder and be more or less protected?"

While Canada and the U.S. have different legislative systems, Wilhelmson said we should still have environmental regulations that complement one another in terms of the Salish Sea.

"Wildlife and the environment know no boarders," she said.

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