Assessing the cumulative effects of marine shipping

Any activity on the water can affect the marine environment. The Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping Initiative was launched in 2017 to better understand the impacts of shipping activity on marine environments.

Working collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples, academia, industry, and other government departments, Transport Canada has established a national framework for assessing environmental, social, and cultural impacts of marine shipping. This framework will help support future assessments of marine shipping.

Moving forward, the Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping Initiative will continue building meaningful relationships with Indigenous Peoples across the country. Regional assessment projects at existing pilot sites are ongoing. This work is helping to collaboratively identify measures to mitigate impacts to the environment and communities.

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The goal of this initiative is to study the potential effects of how marine shipping impacts the environment and coastal communities. It will also establish a national framework for assessing those effects.

Collaborative approach

To support this initiative, local, regional and national engagement sessions were held with:

  • Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis)
  • Coastal communities
  • Port authorities
  • Non-governmental environmental organizations
  • Marine science organizations
  • Academics
  • Industry
  • other government departments

These groups identified seven broad categories of marine vessel activities and their stressors across Canada. Indigenous groups also listed the following concerns on the effects of marine vessel activities in their coastal areas:

  • risks to safety and travelling on the water
  • disruption of migration routes and life cycles
  • contamination and disruption of fishing resources
  • impacts on a Nation’s connections to water and land, transfer of knowledge, and customs, traditions or practices

Pilot areas

As part of this initiative, Transport Canada is working with Indigenous partners and stakeholders in six pilot areas across Canada. Together, we are trying to understand the effects of marine shipping in various coastal areas. These pilot areas include:         

  • North Coast British Columbia
  • South Coast British Columbia
  • St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers, Quebec
  • Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
  • Placentia Bay, Newfoundland
  • Cambridge Bay, Nunavut




Review of cumulative effects management concepts and international frameworks

(PDF, 2.5 MB)




Cumulative Effects Assessment: Technical Workshop Report

(PDF, 1.5 MB)


Related links