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

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For the past three years, the Government of Canada has been working with Canadians and Indigenous peoples through the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan to protect our coasts and waterways today and for future generations, while growing the economy.

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The Oceans Protection Plan

Canada is a maritime nation, with more coastline than any other country in the world. Canadians expect our marine safety system to protect these coasts while supporting the shipping that underpins our economy. This safety system is world-leading - built on more than 100 regulations, 30 laws, and international agreements. But it must change along with the rapidly changing world.

Before the Oceans Protection Plan, coastal communities and Indigenous peoples said they needed a stronger role in protecting Canada's coasts. There was no legislation to address the growing problem of abandoned boats in our waterways. Our coastal ecosystems, including endangered whales species, needed stronger protection measures. And, despite the declining risk of ship-source spills, the Government of Canada wanted greater certainty that we could prevent and respond to any marine pollution event.

Three years later, the Plan has made our marine safety system stronger, and our coastal ecosystems more protected, than ever before.

A world-leading marine safety system


We've designed Canada's marine safety system to respond quickly and efficiently to marine incidents of all kinds, including pollution spills and search and rescue events. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, we've improved the way we prevent and respond to all kinds of incidents. We have accomplished this through new scientific research, technology, and equipment, along with Indigenous knowledge.

Preventing accidents and pollution

To prevent accidents and ship-source pollution, we have:

  • Collected improved modern hydrography and created enhanced charts for important coastal areas, high traffic commercial ports, and waterways to improve navigation safety.
    • We completed modern hydrographic surveys for 18 out of 23 high-priority areas.
  • Improved weather services for mariners by installing buoys with weather instruments in high-risk areas like ports, harbours, and busy shipping lanes.
    • We've deployed five new, state-of-the-art weather buoys. Two of them are in Nova Scotia's Strait of Canso, one in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick's Bay of Fundy, and two in British Columbia's Georgia Strait.
  • Announced eight new radar sites in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia to improve coastal coverage and tracking for marine traffic.
  • Worked with Indigenous and coastal communities to develop an Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness system. This system gives a near real-time picture of what's taking place in local waters.
    • This user-friendly software system helps marine-related decision making for Indigenous partners, coastal communities and stakeholders by providing information and data on such topics as: vessel traffic, weather, hydrography and sensitive ecological areas.
  • Worked with Indigenous and coastal communities and marine stakeholders to develop the first draft of a national Proactive Vessel Management Framework. The framework will offer guidance on how to identify and deal with local vessel traffic issues.
    • To support this work, pilot projects are underway in:
      • Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
      • Inuvialuit Settlement Region
      • The northern coast of British Columbia
  • Finished an independent review of the Pilotage Act and introduced legislative updates to the Act. The Act, which governs marine pilotage in Canada, received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.
    • The modernized Act will support Canada's excellent pilotage safety record and provide a stronger pilotage system, with increased national consistency, and greater efficiency and transparency.
  • Amended the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Marine Liability Act to:
    • Improve safeguards that protect marine ecosystems from the impacts of shipping.
    • Strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard's authorities to support a more proactive, quick, and effective response to ship-source pollution incidents.
  • Modernized Canada's Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund, including making unlimited compensation available to responders and victims of ship-source oil spills.
  • Received Royal Assent for the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act on June 21, 2019, to make it illegal for oil tankers to stop, load or unload large quantities of crude or persistent oil products in northern British Columbia.
  • Introduced new Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations to deal with the unique hazards faced by vessels in the Arctic.
  • Put in place the International Maritime Organization's International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters in Canada (also known as the “Polar Code”) and gave funding to the International Maritime Organization to hold regional train-the-trainer workshops on the Polar Code. The first of four workshops was in Canada in September 2019.
  • Created a permanent Canadian mission at the International Maritime Organization. This strengthens our ability to lead internationally on marine safety, security, and environmental issues.
  • Finished and released a regional risk assessment to identify and analyze the risk of ship-source oil spills in northern British Columbia.
  • Bought tools and trained workers so that they can conduct marine-shipping related risk assessments in other coastal areas.
  • Funded northern land claims organizations to take part in discussions on a potential ban on the use and carriage for use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.
  • Extended the Canadian Coast Guard's annual Arctic operational season to help mariners both earlier and later in the navigation season.
  • Provided funding, through the Safety Equipment and Basic Marine Infrastructure for Northern Communities Initiative, to:
    • The Government of Northwest Territories to purchase four double-hulled barges to be used by local communities.
    • The Government of Nunavut for a study to determine the marine infrastructure needs across the territory's communities.
    • The Government of Nunavut to place 10 mooring bollards, which allow for the safe securing of vessels next to jetties, wharves and berths in ports and harbours, in five communities.
  • Put in place an Interim Anchorages Protocol to manage the local impacts of vessels that anchor along the south coast of British Columbia. We also introduced voluntary measures for vessels to reduce noise and light pollution.
    • Collected comments about anchorages from coastal communities to consider when developing Canada's national Anchorages initiative.
  • Collected baseline information on shorelines and marine birds in Northern British Columbia to understand habitat use and threats. This includes: 16,000 km of coastal shoreline aerial imagery; more than 1,200 km of at-sea marine bird survey data; GPS tracking studies of seven priority marine bird species; and, an initial assessment of diluted bitumen toxicity to birds.

Responding to marine incidents


As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, we have strengthened our marine emergency response capacity to protect our coasts and Canadians at sea more easily.

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

  • Made the Canadian Coast Guard's Regional Operations Centres, which monitor and assess marine incidents (including pollution events), operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The centres include a National Command Centre and other centres in the Atlantic, Western, Central and Artic regions.
  • Trained over 3,100 staff in the internationally recognized Incident Command System and/or Emergency Coordination Centre training through the newly created Transport Canada Office of Incident Management to help make responses to marine accidents faster and more effective.
  • Updated infrastructure at over 130 marine communications and traffic services remote sites located across Canada, to provide better coverage and communications to mariners in remote areas.
  • Opened new Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue stations in:
    • Victoria, British Columbia
    • St. Anthony and Old Perlican, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Announced new search and rescue stations for:
    • Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador
    • Tahsis and Hartley Bay, British Columbia
  • Reopened the Canadian Coast Guard's Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to coordinate on-the-water responses to marine incidents better.
  • Leased two emergency offshore towing vessels for operations off the coast of British Columbia.
  • Bought emergency tow kits for large Canadian Coast Guard vessels to strengthen our ability to tow large disabled vessels.
  • 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 to be staffed by Indigenous students hired by the Canadian Coast Guard.
    • From June 21 to September 3, 2019, search and rescue operations were carried out at the Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet, with one operational supervisor and three Indigenous post-secondary crewmembers.

We have also:

  • Worked with members of Indigenous communities on the West Coast to deliver training on marine search and rescue and environmental response.
  • Expanded the Canadian Coast Guard's Search and Rescue program, through training programs that better support northern coastal communities.
  • Started a student recruitment initiative at high schools, colleges and universities to hire response officers for the Canadian Coast Guard's Environmental Response Program.
  • Created four Primary Environmental Response Teams to strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard's on-scene capacity during marine pollution incidents. One of the teams is in Port Hardy, British Columbia.
  • Invested in new, modern environmental response equipment for the Canadian Coast Guard across Canada, including:
    • Curtain booms, which form a temporary barrier to contain an oil spill. This makes the recovery of a spill easier and helps reduce the spread of oil.
    • Medium-sized portable skimmers, which are used to collect, separate and remove oil from the water surface.
  • Delivered 20 emergency response training courses to over 220 participants, including internal and external partners, Indigenous communities and Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
  • Hired Environmental Emergency Officers and Wildlife Emergency Response Coordinators in several regions across Canada to support emergency preparedness and response.
  • Developed a National Wildlife Emergency Response Framework in Canada.
  • Integrated new ecological datasets and spatial layers into emergency preparedness and response planning processes.
  • Worked with British Columbia and the West Coast Haida Nation to pre-identify potential places of refuge around Haida Gwaii. These are safe places where ships that need help can stabilize their condition and reduce hazards to navigation, human life and the environment.
    • In 2019, this collaboration between coastal communities and Indigenous peoples also led to adding other British Columbia coastal locations to the Places of Refuge Contingency Plan.
  • Participated in the first-ever global action aimed at ending maritime pollution crime, an INTERPOL-led exercise code called Operation 30 Days at Sea. It involved the collaborative efforts of 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies from 58 countries. The exercise found more than 500 offences around the world.

Preserving and restoring marine ecosystems


To preserve and restore our marine ecosystems that are vulnerable to marine activities, we have:

  • Funded 61 projects, worth over $70 million, to restore coastal aquatic habitats through the Coastal Restoration Fund. These projects reduce stressors that affect marine life and their habitats and establish long-term health benefits. Some projects include:
    • Over $20 million committed for 14 projects across British Columbia to restore coastal aquatic habitats that help key species such as Chinook salmon and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale.
    • Nearly $1.2 million in funding for the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq to restore coastal habitats along the Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy.
    • More than $2 million in funding for the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, the St. Mary's River Association, and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association to help restore coastal habitats across Atlantic Canada.
  • Established six pilot sites across the country to inform the national cumulative effects of marine shipping framework, while working with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.
  • Announced funding for 229 projects as part of the Video transcript - Abandoned Boats Program to reduce hazards to navigation in our waters. This includes 109 boat removal assessments and 112 removal and disposal projects; five education and awareness projects; and three research projects.
  • Announced funding as part of the Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program to assess and remove 58 abandoned vessels from federally-owned small craft harbours across Canada.
  • Advanced the National Strategy on Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels by:
    • Bringing the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act into force in July 2019, which protects our coast and shorelines by:
      • improving owner responsibility and liability for their vessels
      • banning vessel abandonment
      • strengthening federal powers to take action on problem vessels
    • Developing a national inventory of abandoned or wrecked vessels and a methodology for prioritizing these vessels for removal.
  • Explored new, economically viable and ecologically sustainable ways to recycle or reuse fiberglass by funding three Innovative Solutions Canada proposals. Fiberglass is often used to construct pleasure craft hulls.
  • Dedicated more than 13,800 hours by fishery officers to support responses to marine mammal incidents in 2019, as well as more than 5,300 hours monitoring marine protected areas and marine refuges. This includes more than 1,870 under the Fisheries Aerial Surveillance Enforcement Program to monitor marine mammals, marine protected areas, and marine refuges.
  • Trained and equipped fishery officers on every coast to support experts responding to marine mammals in distress.
  • Increased marine mammal surveillance under the National Aerial Surveillance Program.
  • Continued to fund the Canadian Chair at the World Maritime University to advance international marine environmental protection and Canada's coastal and ocean agenda.

Indigenous partnerships


Indigenous coastal communities share ties to Canada's oceans that span generations. As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, we are actively working together and partnering with Indigenous peoples across the country to improve our marine safety system. Since December 31, 2019, we have held over 870 engagement sessions, including over 600 engagement sessions with Indigenous groups.

Together, we have:

  • Created the Video transcript - Marine Training Program to help underrepresented groups (women, Northerners, Inuit and Indigenous peoples) access marine training. The program is offered at the:
    • Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium
    • Nova Scotia Community College
    • British Columbia Institute of Technology, in partnership with Camosun College.
      • The first BCIT class graduated from the Bridge Watch Rating Program in September 2019 with 11 students (2 women and 9 men). After graduation, approximately half of the group got jobs at the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • Set up pilot projects in Indigenous communities to test the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness initiative, a web-based system that increases local access to local maritime data, including vessel traffic.
  • Established a Reconciliation Framework Agreement with 14 Pacific North and Central Coast First Nations in British Columbia to coordinate and collaborate better on solutions to local ocean issues.
  • Provided $3.7 million to 16 northern and Indigenous communities to buy search and rescue boats and equipment, increasing their capacity to participate as members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
  • Given training in emergency response and waterway management to Indigenous communities in British Columbia to help them execute the important role they play in marine safety in their communities.
  • Approved $5.8 million in Indigenous and Local Communities Engagement and Partnership Program funding for 21 projects with Indigenous groups. This funding supports their greater participation in developing and improving Oceans Protection Plan measures.
  • Provided $3.6 million through the Community Participation Funding Program to support Indigenous and local community participation in developing and improving Canada's marine transportation system.
  • Signed an agreement between the Government of Canada and the First Nations Fisheries Council to coordinate Oceans Protection Plan engagement on the South Coast of British Columbia.

Building a stronger scientific evidence base

Video transcript - Keeping mariners and our environment safe (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

We're using cutting-edge technology to make navigating our oceans safer. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, we are increasing the number of surveys in 23 priority areas on all three coasts. From Saint-John, NB to Prince Rupert, BC, and all along the Arctic coast, we're using sonar and GPS to update navigation charts. Through technology and innovation, we are keeping mariners and our environment safe.


As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada has invested in scientific research and technology to better prevent and respond to ship-source oil spills, while increasing our understanding of how to protect coastal ecosystems.

So far, we have:

  • Improved our collective understanding of alternative spill response measures through the Multi-Partner Research Initiative. This initiative is funding a network of projects on alternative response measures to spills. Over 30 projects have been funded so far, looking at spill treating agents, oily waste disposal, and more.
  • Worked with Indigenous and coastal communities and stakeholders to establish and begin more than 50 projects to collect scientific baseline data at 6 coastal sites across Canada. Gathered under the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program, this information will help characterize these important areas, detect changes in them over time, and support evidence-based assessments and management decisions.
  • Strengthened access to high-quality, real-time or near real-time data on our marine environment by funding Ocean Networks Canada, which operates several ocean observatories at the University of Victoria.
  • Developed Canadian ocean, wave and ice forecasts to support emergency spill responders.
  • Developed a global downscaling strategy to deal with the complexity of atmospheric and oceanic circulation in Canadian coasts and estuaries.
  • Developed statistical metrics to measure the uncertainty of trajectory forecasts. This improves an emergency responder's ability to accurately track spills and predict their path.
  • Funded oil spill research, especially on Canadian oil products, to better understand how oil behaves and degrades in different marine conditions.
  • Funded several research projects to develop and test various technologies able to detect the presence of whales in near-real time, including:
    • Developing a vessel-based infra-red camera whale detection system to reduce the risk of vessel collisions with whales.
    • Using gliders with underwater microphones to detect the presence of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Roseway Basin.
    • Evaluating the use of land-based infra-red cameras in British Columbia to detect the presence of whales.
  • Increased our use of world-renowned digital hydrophone and oceanographic technologies to better understand the underwater acoustic environment. What we learn informs our mitigation strategies to protect marine mammals.
  • Funded several research projects to help better understand the impact of shipping-related noise on whales, such as:
    • Examining how noise levels impact the behaviour of Southern Resident Killer Whales.
    • Conducting a comprehensive health and condition assessment of Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whale populations to better understand how they are impacted by different environmental stressors, including noise.
    • Examining how noise impacts the Southern Resident Killer Whale's ability to use echolocation to detect their prey, as well as how underwater noise impacts Chinook salmon, their primary prey.
  • Funded projects such as Improving Substance Drift Prediction Modelling, which will develop stronger ocean models to help better predict the trajectory of drifting objects or substances (such as spilled oil, drifting vessels, whale carcasses, or people who need help).

Protecting Canada's endangered whale populations


Building on measures found in the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government announced additional funds to protect Canada's endangered whale populations. The goal of the $167.4 million Whales Initiative is to support the recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales, North Atlantic right whales, and St. Lawrence Estuary belugas by increasing research and monitoring activities. An additional $61.5 million was also committed to implement new measures aimed specifically at strengthening protections for the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

We are using comprehensive actions that are designed to deal with the unique combination of threats faced by these species. With these additional funds, we have:

  • Closed recreational fishing and commercial salmon fishing in key foraging areas for Southern Resident Killer Whales.
  • Updated the Marine Mammal Regulations with new measures to protect marine mammals, including:
    • minimum 100-metre approach distance for most whales, dolphins and porpoises
    • minimum 200-metre distance for killer whales in British Columbia and the Pacific Ocean
  • Increased scientific research and monitoring of contaminants to improve our understanding of their sources and possible impacts to whales and their prey.
  • Put in place a voluntary vessel slowdown in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass in partnership with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program and requested that in-shore vessels move away from important feeding areas for Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
  • Created three Interim Sanctuary Zones between June 1, 2019, and October 31, 2019, in Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat and increased the approach distance from 200 metres to 400 metres through an Interim Order under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
  • Signed agreements with key industry stakeholders operating in the Salish Sea to advance threat reduction measures to Southern Resident Killer Whales and other stewardship actions.
  • Advanced international action on vessel noise, including organizing national and international technical workshops, to promote adopting quiet ship design standards and technologies.
  • Committed to enhance regulatory controls for two flame retardants, three oil and water repellents and two new toxic flame retardants.
  • Continued to protect North Atlantic right whales by introducing vessel traffic management measures, such as speed restrictions and fisheries management measures, including closures to fishing areas in 2017, 2018 and 2019 in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, particularly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
  • Announced improved protection measures, including increasing the number of ships that measures apply to, expanding management measure areas, and increasing aerial surveillance.
  • Continued to build capacity under the Marine Mammal Response Program, including within Indigenous communities.
  • Increased the number of fishery officers on the water to verify compliance with fisheries management measures and the Marine Mammal Regulations, and to enforce the disturbance and harassment provisions of the regulations and the Species at Risk Act.

Work on the Oceans Protection Plan continues with Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, coastal communities, and others across the country. We are working together to build a marine safety regime that exceeds the safety and environmental expectations of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.