Canada's Oceans Protection Plan


The Plan: Summary

Canada is a maritime nation, with more coastline than any other country in the world. Canadians rely on their coasts and waterways for recreation, to deliver products to market, and to earn their livelihood, but also cherish them for cultural reasons. The Oceans Protection Plan will help keep Canadians waters and coasts safe and clean, for today's use and for future generations. The Government of Canada will partner with Indigenous and coastal communities to develop a world-leading marine safety system that meets the unique needs of Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

All Canadians, and especially coastal communities, need confidence that commercial shipping is taking place in a way that is safe for mariners and that protects and sustains the economic, environmental, social, and cultural health of our oceans and coasts.

Canada will invest $1.5 billion over five years in long-needed coastal protections, with an action plan to deliver results for the coming decade.

This Plan will engage communities, first responders, and governing authorities to work together effectively to respond to emergencies.

World-leading marine safety system

The national Oceans Protection Plan is designed to achieve a world-leading marine safety system for our country's unique context that will increase the Government of Canada's capacity to prevent and improve response to marine pollution incidents.

Better information sharing of marine traffic with coastal communities

Real-time awareness of marine traffic in Canadian waters

Indigenous and coastal communities expect that more local data on marine traffic (who is doing what and where) will be shared in a user-friendly way that meets their needs.

The Government of Canada will work with Indigenous and coastal communities to design new information-sharing systems and platforms so they have access to real-time information on marine shipping activities in their local waters.

To enhance real-time awareness, on the West Coast, a new program will fund initiatives to test new ways to bring local marine traffic information to Indigenous and local communities, from existing, open-source information from ports, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and other government systems.

Proactive vessel management

Transport Canada will work with partners to develop regulatory and other tools to engage Indigenous and coastal communities to better respond to local marine traffic issues. While the national interest and economic drivers would still be considered, Indigenous and coastal communities could, for instance, request restrictions on speed and routing of certain sizes and classes of ships to minimize safety risks, establish areas to be avoided around sensitive sites, prohibit sewer discharges near harvesting areas, and other measures that would contribute to safety and environmental protection objectives. Processes for consultations and community engagement will be streamlined to ensure greater accessibility for communities to be engaged and involved.

The Government of Canada will work with Indigenous communities and others to further explore this concept.

Strengthened marine communications and traffic services centres

Canada's Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres, located across the country, are an essential source of information for and about marine traffic. The Oceans Protection Plan will prevent "black-out" periods, ensuring continuing connection with mariners contributing to a stronger marine safety system.

Radar Capacity

Radars provide Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres with an active capability to monitor marine traffic, providing more complete and accurate marine situational awareness. Eight new radars will be installed: six in British Columbia, one in Newfoundland and Labrador, and one in Nova Scotia.

Safer navigation in Canada's waters through better information in the hands of mariners

Modern hydrography for charting in priority areas

Major Canadian ports will have access to increased charting and electronic and navigation tools to allow ships to operate more efficiently and safely.

This new investment will allow the Canadian Hydrographic Service to increase surveys, deliver dynamic information for water levels, tides, and currents, and more quickly produce high resolution electronic navigation charts and navigational products over the next five years for mariners. Over 20 of the highest traffic commercial ports and waterways in Canada, covering two thirds of Canada's total cargo vessel traffic, will have updated navigational information.

Enhanced Marine Weather Forecasting

To make marine navigation safer, Environment and Climate Change Canada will launch a five-year project to provide more detailed marine weather services in high-traffic areas, with high-resolution wind, and sea-state information for the upcoming 12 hours.

Safer resupply in Arctic communities

Basic equipment and tools for safer resupply

Approximately 95% of goods in the North are carried by ships, including the majority of natural resources leaving the Arctic, as well as the re-supply of essential goods to northern communities. Arctic shipping is challenged by remoteness, ice conditions, and scarce marine infrastructure.

In response to the need for faster, safer, and more efficient resupply operations with improved environmental protections, the Government of Canada will fund on-the-ground marine installations to support safer unloading of resupply, benefiting many northern communities.

Tougher requirements for industry response to incidents

Regional response planning

Stronger regional response plans are being developed in collaboration with partners, including coastal and Indigenous communities. Four pilot studies have already been launched in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia; Saint John and the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick; the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec; and southern British Columbia.

The Government of Canada will work with coastal Indigenous communities and British Columbia to develop a new emergency response plan in northern British Columbia.

As part of the planning process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard will work with Indigenous communities and others to identify and map regions of high ecological sensitivity as well as areas of cultural, social, and economic importance. This will improve the identification of conservation priorities, such as identifying critical habitat, and enable authorities to take rapid appropriate action, such as fisheries closures if necessary. Also, Environment and Climate Change Canada will build a geospatial platform for synchronizing environmental sensitivity information in support of spill response.

Stronger polluter-pay principle

Funds must be easily accessible for response and clean-up. Canadians should not be responsible for cleaning up spills in our oceans. This is the responsibility of the polluter. The Government of Canada will strengthen the polluter-pay principle by amending the Canadian Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund to ensure adequate industry-funded compensation is available for those affected by oil spills.

This will include:

  • Unlimited compensation: Adequate and sufficient compensation in the event of a spill. The Government of Canada will remove the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund per-incident limit of liability, and make an unlimited amount of compensation available for spill response.
  • Guaranteed fund top-up: In the unlikely event that the Fund is depleted, a modernized levy on those who ship oil would be instated, ensuring that the compensation continues to be funded by industry, not by middle class Canadians.
  • Funding into the hands of who needs it: Quickly providing funds to responders and victims of spills is crucial to the system's integrity.

Better identification of where ships can find refuge

The Government of Canada will engage with Indigenous and coastal communities to support regional planning that ensures environmental, traditional knowledge, and cultural knowledge is incorporated into identifying appropriate sites of refuge.

Greater leadership internationally

Canada will play an active role in developing more stringent international standards with the International Maritime Organization and international partners.

Canada will also work domestically to implement faster industry response times, require Indigenous community participation in industry response, proactive vessel management, and new, more protective Arctic navigation regimes. Canada will also work with other jurisdictions to promote the use of these models.

Modernize the ship pilotage regime

The Government of Canada will review the Pilotage Act, starting in 2017, to deliver safe, efficient and environmentally responsible pilot services into the future.

Proactive monitoring and response capacity on water

Fundamental to a world-leading marine safety system, is the ability for the Government of Canada to provide 24/7 command and control for marine incidents. The Canadian Coast Guard's command systems will be strengthened to lead the responses to marine emergencies, and ensure a coordinated response to spills to protect coastal environments and Canadians at sea.

24/7 Emergency response capacity

The Canadian Coast Guard will have dedicated 24/7 emergency management capacity in its three operational regions and will re-open the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.

To mount an effective science-based federal response that minimizes environmental damage, Environment and Climate Change Canada will provide emergency officers on each coast, increase the number of wildlife service staff, enhance its 24/7 oil spill modelling capacity, and improve communications and enforcement officer readiness to ensure the environment is protected in the event of an oil spill.

Canadian Coast Guard to take command in marine emergencies

Canada's Coast Guard will be given greater power to intervene directly to prevent marine incidents such as where ship operators have been reluctant to act.

Increase Canadian Coast Guard towing capacity

Two new vessels will be leased with the ability to tow large commercial ships, including tankers. The vessels will be operated by the Canadian Coast Guard in the areas that pose the greatest risk. In addition, towing capacity will be added to major Canadian Coast Guard vessels on the East and West coasts.

The Government of Canada will work with provincial and Indigenous partners to develop a plan for the best location and most effective use of these new vessels and resources.

Modern response equipment

The Government of Canada will upgrade Canadian Coast Guard assets to better respond in the event of a spill. This includes booms, small response vessels, and clean-up technologies.

In addition, the Canadian Coast Guard will deploy new mobile command posts to establish on-site command capacity and procure the necessary communications equipment to better operate with its partners.

New logistics depot

A new logistic depot will be built along British Columbia's central coast, in Port Hardy, to house environmental response staff and equipment to ensure rapid response to spills.

Increase on-scene environmental response

Training and exercising is key to having an effective marine emergency response. Because of this, the Canadian Coast Guard will increase its on-scene primary environmental preparedness and response personnel to effectively manage and respond to vessels in distress and ship-source pollution.

Expand duties and training of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary

The Canadian Coast Guard is supported by a network of 4,000 volunteers across Canada to support maritime search and rescue activities. A new chapter of the Coast Guard Auxiliary will be created in British Columbia to support Indigenous communities. A second one will be created in the Arctic, to bolster response to emergencies and pollution incidents.

Increase search and rescue capacity

Six new lifeboat stations will be built: four along the West coast and two in Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition, a lifeboat station in Newfoundland and Labrador will be refurbished. The Canadian Coast Guard will also implement a seasonal in-shore rescue boat station in the Arctic, with trained local personnel, which will support near-shore search and rescue operations.

Develop comprehensive response systems for spills on water

Working with partners to build a seamless response system

The Government of Canada will work in partnership with stakeholders, experts, industry, and coastal and Indigenous communities to explore options as to how Canada could better prepare for and respond to dangerous goods spills. This work includes exploring scientific research, data, operational requirements, and Canada's accession to the International Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by hazardous and noxious substances.

Preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems

The Government of Canada's Oceans Protection Plan aims to preserve and restore marine ecosystems vulnerable to increased marine shipping and development.

Develop a coastal environmental baseline and cumulative effects program

The Government of Canada will launch environmental monitoring plans in six high-use areas on all three coasts, which will include environmental indicators, monitoring protocols and strategies.

Baseline environmental data collection will help detect changes in the ecosystem and improve our understanding of the cumulative effects of shipping.

Coastal habitat restoration fund

The Government of Canada will create a fund to protect and restore abundant coastal marine ecosystems that are vulnerable to increased marine shipping and development activities. This fund will support the establishment of coastal habitat zone plans and the identification of habitat restoration priorities located on the West, East and Arctic coasts.

The habitat restoration projects would contribute to the mitigation of stressors affecting marine life and their habitats and would work with Indigenous communities, local groups and communities leading restoration activities.

New whale protections

The Oceans Protection Plan is an important step forward in addressing the threats to marine mammals. The key threats include contaminants, prey availability and noise in the marine environment.

The Government of Canada will:

  • Address priority issues on each coast through the coastal habitat restoration fund.
  • Take action to better understand and address the cumulative effects of shipping on marine mammals, such as the southern resident killer whales pods, belugas, and northern right whales. This includes work to better establish baselines for noise and consideration of options to mitigate these effects.
  • Work with partners to implement a real-time whale detection system in specific areas of the species’ habitat to alert mariners to the presence of whales, which will allow them to better avoid interactions with this and other marine mammal species.
  • Will immediately launch a science based review of the effectiveness of current management and recovery actions under way for the southern resident killer whale, the northern right whale and the St. Lawrence beluga. The review will be completed by Summer 2017 and will seek to identify areas for immediate improvement in recovery efforts and priorities for new or enhanced action efforts.

Baseline data for Northern British Columbia coast

The Government of Canada will work with local and regional partners, including Indigenous communities, to design and launch a five-year project to collect and update baseline biological, ecological, social, cultural and economic data to support effective environmental stewardship and improve the ability to react to potential incidents and spills.

Reduce abandonment of ships, and clean up existing ship wrecks

The Oceans Protection Plan includes a comprehensive strategy based on the best international models to reduce abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels and to minimize the associated risks of environmental harm.

While most vessel owners properly dispose of their property, the Government of Canada recognizes the risks that abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels pose to safe navigation, the marine environment, public health and local economies. This is why it has developed a comprehensive plan that focuses on prevention and removal, including a robust, polluter-pay approach for future vessel clean-up. This new plan will prohibit owners from abandoning their vessels.

Negotiating meaningful Indigenous partnerships

The Government of Canada will partner with Indigenous and coastal communities and seek their advice in a number of areas, including:

  • understanding the combined effects of shipping;
  • creating local vessel control areas to minimize safety risks and/or environmental impacts;
  • updating and modernizing regulations and other tools to better respond to community issues related to marine traffic;
  • setting habitat restoration priorities and taking the most appropriate measures when monitoring clean-up, in the event of a spill; and
  • developing training programs to increase participation of Indigenous group members, particularly women, in marine safety jobs.

These partnerships will be integrated within the multi-agency Incident Command System, a standardized on-site management system designed to enable effective and efficient incident management.

Agreements will build on existing initiatives and dialogues to create new opportunities for Indigenous communities, who will receive capacity funding to participate in the negotiations.

Better Indigenous capacity in design and delivery of marine safety

Building on the success of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary model, the Government of Canada will work with Indigenous communities to design and establish new national Indigenous Auxiliary chapters in the Arctic and the Pacific to enroll those Indigenous individuals and groups who want to be part of the federal marine safety system.

As an additional measure to support Arctic coastal communities, the Canadian Coast Guard will extend its community boats pilot program and will provide Arctic communities with up to eight vessels for incident response purposes.

Indigenous community response teams

The Canadian Coast Guard will work with Indigenous communities to design and launch new Indigenous Community Response Teams, starting in British Columbia. Interested Indigenous communities will gain the skills to support search and rescue missions, environmental response, and incident management activities. These formal training activities will be centered at Canadian Coast Guard facilities and in communities where applicable.

Multi-partner oil spill response technology research for spill clean-up

The Government of Canada will fund improved research capacity to seek safe, reliable, and more effective technologies to clean up oil spills. Research into new clean-up technologies is an essential part of a world-leading marine safety plan.

New investments will fund research to help improve emergency response to marine pollution incidents on the water drawing on the expertise and experience of the science community both in Canada and abroad.

New international partnerships will give Canadians access to the best technology available for spill clean-up. A program will build on the work of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s world-leading Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research and will encourage collaboration on scientific research with Indigenous and local communities, international research facilities and industry.

Improve localized ocean circulation knowledge to inform oil spill trajectories

Government of Canada scientists will conduct research to better understand how different petroleum products behave in Canada’s waters and specific environmental conditions. This will include work to build and refine ocean models using information such as currents, winds and waves to allow responders to accurately track spills and predict their path.

Better ability to predict behaviour of oil in water

In response to concerns raised by Indigenous and coastal communities regarding risks posed by existing tanker traffic, the Government of Canada will ensure that this scaled-up research initiative includes further analysis on how various types of oil and petroleum products behave when spilled in a marine environment. This will provide scientific advice to oil spill responders that will improve the Net Environmental Benefit Analysis approach to a spill and the resulting decision-making process.