Dr. Peter S. Ross to lead a new water contaminants program

Raincoast Conservation Foundation welcomes renowned pollution expert.

Killer whales in the waters of BC are the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. This was demonstrated twenty years ago by Dr. Peter S. Ross. 

Since then, Dr. Ross has worked tirelessly to highlight the vulnerability of BC’s coastal wildlife to pollution. His toxicology expertise is internationally recognized and his commitment to conservation science in Canada is well known to coastal communities, industry, and governments. 

Even though healthy water is critical to all life, no single agency is responsible for the pollution of water in all its forms. 

There is an urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to monitoring water pollution in British Columbia.

For these reasons, and more, we are excited to announce that Dr. Ross is leading the new Healthy Waters Program at Raincoast. He will bring new focus, and new reach, to our efforts to safeguard salmon, whales, and people. 

A history of ground-breaking research

Ross has played a prominent role in leading ground-breaking studies on ocean pollution in Canada and around the world, and has overseen solution-oriented research on priority pollutants in the ocean, in salmon and in killer whales. He has worked on a variety of priority pollutants, including PCBs, flame retardants, pesticides, hydrocarbons and metals, with a recent emphasis on documenting the source, transport, and widespread distribution of microplastics. 

He previously worked as a Research Scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and recently served as Vice-President of Research at Ocean Wise. In both capacities, he led a strong research program but also contributed to policy, regulatory and enforcement files, effectively applying his expertise to a solution-oriented conservation agenda.

Ross will fill a gap in British Columbia pollution reduction efforts and build bridges across jurisdictions, institutions and legal instruments.

Peter Ross drives a boat in the waters of Labrador.

Salmon, whales, and people

The program will monitor water pollution from a multitude of sources from land to sea, covering the water that is essential to salmon, whales and people. 

It is widely acknowledged that land-based activities are responsible for 80% of ocean pollution, and this initiative recognizes society’s collective failure to stem the release of pollutants into the ocean. 

Building on Raincoast’s collaborative framework, this initiative will build a water pollution monitoring plan with community water stewards and Indigenous Nations. 

This comes with the acknowledgement that Indigenous communities often face disproportionate impacts of pollution, through contaminated drinking water, degraded environmental conditions, and pollutants in foods harvested in their territories that they have stewarded for millenia. 

Ross’ previous work in support of clean water and safe Indigenous foods creates a valuable opportunity for Raincoast to build on our history of combining western science and Indigenous knowledge to further sustainability in BC.

Two small fish circle in the water.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.

Tackling an invisible crisis

A history of incidents in BC underscore the serious threat posed by pollution.

Dr. Ross calls it BC’s invisible crisis, with the contamination of water in all its forms threatening the health of people and wildlife. 

This initiative represents the first time that a single program will tackle the divergent pollutant profiles in water along its convoluted journey from headwaters to the ocean, intersecting the needs of anadromous salmon, whales, and people. 

The direct engagement with communities and residents will afford an important opportunity to build an action team from the start – habitat champions that can see the priority pollution problems in their communities and take appropriate steps to mitigate the source of the problem. This will help advance Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 6 (Clean Water for all) and 14 (Life Under Water), in the context of reconciliation as outlined in the UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples.

Dr. Ross has begun to engage with communities to develop a comprehensive plan.

Live media briefing, Shipyards, North Vancouver

Thursday July 29th, at 1:00 pm Pacific
St. Roch Dock (behind the Pier 7 Restaurant),
125 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver

There will be a live media announcement today at 1:00 pm, featuring:

  • Gabriel George of Tsleil Waututh Nation,
  • Patrick Weiler, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country,
  • Misty MacDuffee of Raincoast Conservation Foundation,
  • Dr. Peter Ross

In addition, Raincoast’s research vessel – the 68’ SV Achiever will be present.

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.