Oceans Week in Halifax

Women making waves in our community

As proud Nova Scotians if I asked you what the slogan of our province’s license plate was, without missing a beat I’d expect you to say, “Canada’s Ocean Playground”. From the surfers who face the frigid February waters at Lawrencetown beach to emerge with icicles clinging to their hoods or beards, to the couples who sit at the farmers market on Saturday mornings, sipping coffee and breathing in the salty air, love for the ocean runs deep in Halifax. While this sentiment is true year-round, it is especially strong for the first week of June every year as we celebrate Oceans Week.


Oceans Week is centered around International Oceans Day, June 8th, which was first proposed by Canada in 1992 and has been recognized and celebrated by the UN since 2008. Each year, International Oceans Day has a theme and this year the theme is “Gender and the Ocean”. While the critical role of woman in numerous maritime industries, such as fisheries, is too often overlooked, as a graduate student studying the ocean, I am most familiar with the role of woman in ocean science. Although Jacques Cousteau may be a household name, there are many female ocean researchers who also deserve recognition. In fact, today women make up 38% of ocean researchers. While not 50%, this is still 10% higher than in other research fields. Formidable pioneering female ocean academics include Sylvia Earle (aka “Her Deepness”), the first woman to become Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States and Elisabeth Mann Borgese, a former law professor at our very own Dalhousie University who’s work shaped the laws that govern international use of the ocean (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

Since Mann Borgese, Dalhousie continues to be a hub for female ocean scientists including Drs. Heike Lotze, Erin Bertrand and Megan Bailey who respectively study the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems, ocean microbes and fisheries governance. Additionally, all three supervise and mentor female students. Indeed, Halifax is home to impressive ocean focused women.


The Halifax Oceans Week was founded by two women: Alexandra Vance and Monica Phung. Due to their tireless efforts, this year Halifax is the city hosting the most Oceans Week events in the world. These events include trivia nights, documentary screenings, and beach clean ups. So this week, I encourage all Haligonians to celebrate two things this city can be proud of: our ocean and the impressive women committed to her.


 Link to Halifax’s ocean week events: http://www.oceansweek.ca/events-oceansweek2019

Written by Isabelle Hurley
Poster by Hannah Emmett Artwork

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