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Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan: Preserving and restoring Canada’s marine ecosystems

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

To achieve this, the plan will reduce the impact of day-to-day vessel traffic on marine mammals by using sound science and local knowledge of local waters provided by Indigenous communities and other coastal community residents.

Protecting marine mammals

To protect marine mammals from the effects of shipping, including collisions and noise pollution, researchers will locate and track marine mammals in high vessel traffic areas and provide this information to mariners. They will also identify and assess the most pressing local environmental issues impacting the state of the species and the effectiveness of existing mitigation measures.

To better respond to marine mammal incidents, Fisheries and Oceans Canada Fishery Officers will develop a national approach and capacity, in line with international best practices, to respond to marine mammal incidents such as collisions, entanglements and strandings. This new capacity will bring with it the added benefit of enhancing compliance, enforcement and surveillance of marine protected areas.

Preventing and responding to marine pollution incidents

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.

In addition to this program, Government of Canada scientists will conduct research to better understand how different petroleum products behave in Canada’s waters and specific environmental conditions. This includes in cold weather, in freshwater and in ocean conditions.

Over the next five years, researchers will run a pilot project in six priority areas to build and refine ocean models using information such as currents, winds and waves to better inform responders. This system will allow them to accurately track spills and predict their path.

These initiatives will give Canada better information and technology to avoid and respond to a spill.

Restoring coastal ecosystems

Working closely with Indigenous and coastal communities, the Government of Canada will: create a pilot baseline monitoring program to better understand the cumulative effects of shipping on coastal ecosystems; develop appropriate mitigation measures; and better monitor clean-up in the event of a spill.

In addition to this program, investments will be made in the preservation and restoration of vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems. Funding will support the establishment of coastal zone plans and identify restoration priorities on all three coasts. Habitat restoration projects will engage Indigenous communities, resource users and local groups and communities.

Addressing abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels

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;
  • Make vessel owners responsible and liable for the cost of any vessel clean-up as a result of abandonment, maritime casualty, or irresponsible vessel management;
  • Empower the Government of Canada to take more proactive action on vessels causing hazards before they become costly to address;
  • Improve the accuracy of vessel owner identification to help ensure they can be held responsible;
  • Create a list of problem vessels to understand the scope, scale and risks associated with this issue;
  • Work with provincial, territorial and local governments and Indigenous communities to support the clean-up of smaller high-priority vessels posing risks to coastal communities, and develop plans to address large commercial problem vessels, according to the risks they pose; and,
  • Promote education and outreach activities to inform owners of their responsibilities for proper vessel disposal.


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