NGO’s in EIA: An Ocean of Experience

I can think of few who would consider rowing across the Atlantic Ocean training.

A couple of years ago my friend Markus told me about his idea to make a documentary about grassroots environmental conservation movements around the world while undertaking an exclusively man-powered circumnavigation of the globe. At the time of writing, he and three men are getting set to row their way 3659 nautical miles (about 6700 km) across open ocean from Dakar, Senegal to Miami, USA.



Baby steps, I guess.

The CWF Africa to the Americas 2013 expedition was organized by OAR Northwest, a Seattle-based not-for-profit organization founded in 2005 promoting outdoor adventure, rowing and environmental education and awareness, with sponsorship from the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) to advocate marine wildlife and habitat conservation through public engagement and interactive educational programs.

photo credt: Erinn J Hale Photography

photo credt: Erinn J Hale Photography

The expedition team will paddle non-stop, two at a time, in 1- 2- and 4-hour shifts for 60-80 days in a 29-foot state-of-the-art ocean-going rowboat. The boat is equipped with wind- and solar-powered instrumentation that measures surface water temperature, salinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen content, dissolved CO2 content, chlorophyll content, surface air temperature, wind chill apparent and true wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and GPS coordinates and heading. At a depth of about 100 meters they can measure water conductivity, temperature, salinity pressure and speed of sound and capture photo and video. OAR Northwest is partnered with scientists and academics that will use the data collected for research in marine, oceanographic, atmospheric and meteorological sciences (1).

(video credit: Markus Pukonen, from

The CWF is a Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO) whose mission it is to ensure “an appreciation of our natural world and a lasting legacy of healthy wildlife and habitat by: informing and educating Canadians; advocating responsible human actions and; representing wildlife on conservation issues” (2).

NGO’s play a key role in the environmental assessment (EA) process. They are crucial in engaging various stakeholders in public participation, as well as in environmental marketing and education, communicating awareness and drawing public and media attention to environmental issues.  The CWF, for example, won litigation in 1990 against the Canadian Minister of Environment, forcing the ministry to submit the Rafferty Alameda dam project in Saskatchewan to the EA process (3). The decision set a legal precedent, establishing into law the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Guidelines Order (4). They have since continued to advocate for EA in Canada, calling for research into the environmental impacts of aquaculture and for an EIA for all game farms containing chronic wasting disease positive herds, and supporting wind power development on the condition that EIA’s are carried out (3).

The CWF Africa to the Americas 2013 is a great example of how NGO’s can use their funding and their voice to engage in environmental marketing, research and education and promote awareness and public participation in environmental issues. The data collected can be used to establish baseline environmental conditions and support other research for future EA’s.

For more information on the CWF and the Africa to the Americas 2013 expedition visit and


(1)  OAR Northwest (2012). Research: Ocean, Weather, Psychology, Sleep. Accessed 01/21/13 from <<>&gt;

(2)  CWF (2013). About the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Accessed 01/21/13 from <<>&gt;

(3)  CWF (2013). Our History. Accessed 01/21/13 from <<>&gt;

(4)  Stolte, W.J. & Sadar, M.H., (1993). The Rafferty-Alameda project and its environmental review: structures, objectives and history. Canadian Water Resources Journal, 18(1), 1-13.


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