Report to Canadians: Investing in our coasts through the Oceans Protection Plan

In 2016, we launched the comprehensive, national, $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. Learn what we have done and are doing under the plan to help keep our waters and coasts safe and clean, for today’s use and for future generations.

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About the Oceans Protection Plan

Canada has the longest coastline in the world. Our coasts are home to Canadian fisheries, attract tourism, support coastal communities’ livelihoods and Indigenous communities’ cultures and ways of life, and play a key role in growing the Canadian economy. They enable the export of our goods overseas and the import of foreign goods into Canada. For all these reasons and more, Canadians need confidence that commercial shipping is taking place in a way that is safe for mariners, protects Indigenous rights, and sustains the economic, environmental, social, and cultural health of our oceans and coasts.

The Government of Canada has a strong system in place to protect the environment and is committed to the protection of our coasts and waterways based on scientific evidence, technology, and Indigenous knowledge. To further improve our marine safety system, the federal government launched the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan in 2016. This represents the largest investment the Government of Canada has ever made to protect our coasts and waterways. This funding will ensure our oceans are cleaner, healthier and safer now and for future generations.

World-leading marine safety system

Canada’s marine safety system is designed to ensure that we are ready and able to respond efficiently to any spill along any of Canada’s three coastlines, the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway and select inland waters. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, we are advancing our world-leading marine safety system to better prevent and respond to spills from vessels.

Marine safety upgrades focused on prevention

To improve our marine safety system and prevent marine incidents, we have:

  • implemented an Interim Anchorages Protocol to address immediate concerns regarding excessive use of anchorages near coastal communities
  • received and recorded comments about anchorages from coastal communities for further consideration in the development of Canada’s national Anchorages framework
  • delivered modern and improved hydrography and charting in key areas of high traffic commercial ports and waterways to improve navigation safety
  • partnered with 10 coastal communities on a one-year pilot project at nine pilot sites for a new user-friendly maritime awareness information system that will increase access to local maritime information – including vessel traffic – and enhance marine safety for Indigenous partners, coastal communities and stakeholders
  • established an interim protocol to more evenly distribute vessels at anchor along the south coast of British Columbia, and introduced voluntary measures to reduce noise and light pollution
  • conducted a review of the Pilotage Act, which governs marine pilotage activities in Canada, to support the delivery of safe, and efficient marine pilotage services into the future
  • Introduced legislative amendments to strengthen marine environmental protection and response, including:
    • Enhancing safeguards to protect marine ecosystems, including marine mammals, from the impacts of shipping and navigation activities;
    • Strengthening the Canadian Coast Guard’s authorities to support a more proactive, rapid, and effective response to ship-source pollution incidents;
    • Modernizing Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund, including making unlimited compensation available to responders and victims of a ship-source oil spill;
  • engaged with stakeholders and Indigenous and coastal communities in the Arctic, and the West and East coasts on strengthening Canada’s environmental response system, including potential legislative amendments

As well, we have:

  • introduced the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act to prohibit oil tankers from stopping, loading or unloading large quantities of crude or persistent oil products in northern British Columbia.
  • introduced new Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations to address the unique hazards encountered by vessels that operate in the Arctic and implemented in Canada the IMO’s International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (known as the Polar Code)
  • created a permanent Canadian mission at the International Maritime Organization to strengthen Canada’s ability to follow, influence and lead internationally on marine safety, security and environmental issues
  • extended the Canadian Coast Guard’s annual Arctic operational season to support mariners both earlier and later in the navigation season;
  • expanded the Canadian Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue programs to better support our northern coastal communities
  • significantly increased aerial surveillance of our Arctic waters under the National Aerial Surveillance Program to help identify and prevent marine pollution
  • secured land in Iqaluit for the construction of an aircraft hangar to further support extended Arctic National Aerial Surveillance Program operations
  • Completed the first call-for-proposals targeted at the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to improve community sea lift and resupply, and announced a contribution of $19.5 million to the Government of the Northwest Territories for four double-hulled barges, which will be used for community resupply in the Arctic.

Marine safety upgrades focused on response

Fundamental to a world-leading marine safety system is the Government of Canada’s ability to provide 24/7 command and control for marine incidents, and ensure an efficient and effective emergency response. Under the current federal system, emergency response is comprehensive, integrated and well understood by responders. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, we are strengthening our systems to lead the marine emergency response and ensure the necessary coordination that will lead to increased protection for our coastal environments and Canadians at sea.

To improve our ability to respond to marine incidents, we have:

  • in partnership with the Haida Nation on B.C.’s West Coast, revised a regional plan for places of refuge around Haida Gwaii, ensuring that ships in need of assistance have a pre-surveyed location to:
    • stabilize their condition
    • reduce the hazards to navigation, human life and the environment
  • enhanced our response capacity for marine incidents by staffing 24/7 personnel and implemented an incident command system
  • modernized infrastructure at 100 of Canada’s marine communications and traffic services remote sites located across Canada, to provide better coverage and communications with mariners in remote areas
  • opened new Coast Guard Search and Rescue stations in Victoria, British Columbia and St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • announced new Search and Rescue stations for Twillingate and Old Perlican, Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Tahsis, British Columbia, with other new stations planned for the areas of Hartley Bay and Port Renfrew in British Columbia.
  • reopened the Coast Guard’s Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s to better coordinate the on-the-water response to marine incidents in the area and provide additional capacity for search and rescue
  • opened a new seasonal Inshore Rescue Boat Station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, to expand local search and rescue coverage and reduce response times to incidents in local waters. This is the first station that will be run by Indigenous students hired by the Canadian Coast Guard

As well, we have:

  • worked with members of Indigenous communities on the West Coast to deliver training on marine search and rescue and environmental response, to build on the essential role these community members already play in marine safety in local waters.
  • started a student recruitment initiative targeted to secondary and post-secondary institutions to fill the need for trained and skilled response officers for the Environmental Response Program
  • leased two offshore towing vessels for the British Columbia coast that are capable of towing large ships in distress before they approach the shore, and awarded a contract to outfit all large Canadian Coast Guard vessels with tow kits, providing an enhanced ability to tow vessels in cases of emergency such as mechanical failure, loss of power or loss of steering
  • invested in modern environmental response equipment for the Coast Guard across Canada, and took delivery of the first shipments of equipment for the West Coast. This new equipment will help ensure marine pollution spills are contained and recovered as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems

Through the Oceans Protection Plan, we are preserving and restoring marine ecosystems that are vulnerable to marine activities. We are also developing and investing in activities to protect marine mammals. We are reducing the impact of day-to-day vessel traffic on marine mammals by using sound science and local knowledge of waters provided by Indigenous communities and other coastal residents. We are hiring more fishery officers to support lead responders and provide enforcement during marine mammal incidents. As well, we are increasing our surveillance of marine protected areas.

To preserve and restore our marine ecosystems, we have:

  • funded over 30 projects to restore coastal aquatic habitats through the Coastal Restoration Fund. These projects will reduce stressors affecting marine life and their habitats and establish long-term health of aquatic coastal habitats
    • For example, to date, a total $14.8M has been announced to support 11 projects across British Columbia to help restore habitat for Chinook salmon, the preferred prey of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale.
  • assessed and removed over 100 abandoned and wrecked vessels from Canadian waters through the Abandoned Boats Program and Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal
  • helped fund a vessel slowdown trial in Haro Strait, B.C. — an important summer feeding area for the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
  • provided funding to WHaLE, a project to develop a real-time whale alert system for mariners, which will inform measures to help reduce whale and ship collisions in Canadian waters.
  • introduced the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, which regulates abandoned or hazardous vessels and wrecks in Canadian waters and promotes the protection of the public and environment, including coastlines, shores and infrastructure

As well, we have:

  • spent more than 8,000 fishery officers hours since April 2018 supporting marine mammals’ responses and more than 3,000 fishery officers’ hours on marine protected areas
  • spent more than 750 hours under the Fisheries Aerial Surveillance Enforcement Program on marine mammals and marine protected areas since April 2018
  • increased marine mammal surveillance under the National Aerial Surveillance Program
  • funded several research projects with partners to understand the impact of underwater noise on endangered whales, specifically the North Atlantic Right Whale, Southern Resident Killer Whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga.
  • established six pilot sites across the country to help understand and inform the national cumulative effects of marine shipping framework, while working with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities

Indigenous partnerships

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, we are actively engaging with Indigenous peoples across the country to build new partnerships, facilitate their participation in the marine safety system and work with them to collaborate on specific marine initiatives. We are also collaborating with Indigenous and coastal communities to enhance marine safety by providing new boats and equipment, and through training that helps local community members play an even more important role in marine safety.

To date, we have:

  • established pilot projects in Indigenous and coastal communities to test a web-based system that increases local access to local maritime data, including vessel traffic
  • established a collaborative oceans management governance structure in partnership with 14 Pacific North and Central Coast First Nations in British Columbia, to address marine planning, shipping, marine safety and oceans protection over a large geographic area
  • provided emergency response and waterway management training to Indigenous communities in British Columbia to enhance their knowledge and skills, and support the important role they play in marine safety in their communities
  • established a northern marine training program with the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium – the sole provider of training in the North - to help reduce barriers to marine training for underrepresented groups, such as women, Northerners, Inuit and Indigenous peoples
  • initiated a similar marine training program for southern Canada and launched a call for proposals from marine training institutions. Funding is expected to be awarded in early 2019
  • provided funding for four northern Indigenous communities to buy search and rescue boats and equipment, increasing their capacity to participate as members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and enhance their role in marine safety in their communities

Stronger evidence base

To address risks posed by tanker traffic, the Government of Canada is improving its understanding of how various types of oil and petroleum products behave when spilled in a marine environment. We are advancing knowledge and the scientific advice provided to oil spill responders to inform the response approach to a spill and the resulting decision-making process. Investments in ocean modelling, oil spill behaviour, biological effects, containment, and cleaning techniques will ensure that Canada can provide the best scientific advice and tools to prevent and respond to oil spills. We are also funding research to study the impacts of underwater noise and reduced availability of prey on marine mammals.

To date we have:

  • funded the creation of the Multi-Partner Research Initiative to bring scientists together to improve our collective understanding of alternate spill response measures
  • funded the development of ocean modelling of wind, waves and currents so that emergency responders can accurately track spills and predict their path
  • supported oil spill research to better understand how oil behaves and degrades in different marine conditions
  • funded the increased use of world-renowned digital hydrophone and oceanographic technologies to help us better understand the underwater acoustic environment and inform mitigation strategies to protect marine mammals
  • funded several research projects to study the impacts of underwater noise and reduced availability of prey on marine mammals such as:
    • examining how changes in the food web affect the abundance and quality of Chinook salmon in critical habitat areas of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
    • undertaking a comprehensive health and condition assessment of Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whale populations to better understand the impact of environmental stressors, particularly noise and prey limitation.
    • continuing to operate an underwater listening station to measure noise levels from commercial vessels and the presence of Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea.
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