Government of Canada invests in key research on oil spill response measures and coastal environmental baseline monitoring at the University of Manitoba

News release

August 9, 2019

Winnipeg, Manitoba — The health of our oceans matters to all of us. The Government of Canada is dedicated to protecting our oceans and waterways and to keeping them clean, secure and productive for the benefit of all Canadians, now and into the future. We also recognize that scientific research is fundamental to evidence-based decision-making when planning and carrying out marine conservation efforts.

Under Canada’s historic $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, we are making major investments in science to help protect our coasts and waterways from the impacts of potential oil spills, and to support the collection of data in order to identify changes in coastal environments.

On behalf of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Johnathan Wilkinson, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, Terry Duguid, announced today that the Government of Canada is investing $6,385,000 in scientific research on the impacts of potential oil spills at the University of Manitoba. MP Duguid also announced more than $360,000 in funding for two marine environmental data collection projects in Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit, which will also be led by the University of Manitoba. Together, these investments will support at least 12 scientific training positions at the University of Manitoba.

Multi-Partner Research Initiative

This investment will enable the University of Manitoba to investigate a wide range of techniques and technologies to assist in oil spill response in Canada. The work will involve both the experimental testing of alternative response options and chemical analysis to determine the effectiveness of various oil spill response techniques. It will also look at natural biodegradation of oil in Arctic marine environments. These projects will add to the growing knowledge of oil spill response measures at home and abroad, while ensuring responders are well informed and well prepared when making evidence-based decisions related to oil spills.

These projects are funded under the Multi-Partner Research Initiative, which aims to ensure we have access to the best scientific information and methods available to respond to oil spills in Canadian waters by supporting collaborative research among oil spill experts both in Canada and worldwide. These efforts will improve our knowledge of how oil spills behave, how to contain them, clean them up, and minimize their environmental impacts.

Coastal Environmental Baseline Program

The two additional projects supported by this investment will help create a clearer picture of the coastal ecosystems and environmental conditions around Iqaluit by collecting data on status and trends in water quality in the Arctic marine environment and by investigating contaminant levels in water, sediment, shellfish and seaweed harvested by Inuit. The data gathered from these initiatives are vital to improving our understanding of nearshore environments and potential human impacts on these sensitive areas while strengthening our ability to track baseline ecosystem status and to direct our efforts to protect coastal species and habitats into the future.

These research initiatives are part of the $50.8 million Coastal Environmental Baseline Program, which involves close collaboration between Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists, Indigenous and coastal communities, nongovernmental organizations, academia and other research partners. Participants are gathering wide-ranging scientific data to identify long-term changes in Canada’s coastal environment.


“Scientific research is at the heart of the evidence-based decision-making we need to plan and carry out our important marine conservation work. The Multi-Partner Research Initiative and Coastal Environmental Baseline Program are bringing together the best researchers from across Canada and around the world to help protect and restore ocean ecosystems for this generation and as we face new challenges with a changing climate.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“We sometimes forget that Manitoba, too, is a coastal province. It is at the heart of the Hudson Bay watershed and directly connected to the North Atlantic. The University of Manitoba is a recognized leader in marine science, with a 140-year history of driving discovery. Thanks to these investments by the Government of Canada, the scientific research completed here will help protect oceans close to home, in the Arctic and other marine and coastal ecosystems in Canada.”

Terry Duguid, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South

“Thanks to the Multi-Partner Research Initiative, University of Manitoba researchers will be able to develop new analytical techniques to characterize the fate and behavior of oil spills, to develop and improve oil spill response techniques, and to train the next generation of highly qualified personnel in oil spill research, response and decision-making. This MPRI funding is timely, as the University of Manitoba’s new Churchill Marine Observatory will soon be operational and equipped to facilitate studies to address technological, scientific and economic issues pertaining to Arctic marine transportation, oil and gas exploration and development throughout the Arctic.”

Dr. Feiyue Wang, Canada Research Chair in Arctic Environmental Chemistry and Program Area Lead for the Multi-Partner Research Initiative, University of Manitoba

“The Canadian Arctic is experiencing extraordinary changes. Reduced sea ice cover and ice-free summers have led to a tripling in vessel traffic since 1990. With this increasing activity, comes a greater risk of accidental spills of fuel and other transportation-related contaminants. One of the challenges in the event of an accidental spill will be to distinguish between natural background and contaminating hydrocarbons caused by the spill. This MPRI project will help build a database containing detailed hydrocarbon contaminant profiles and chemical concentrations in sediment, water and benthic invertebrates along the vulnerable shipping transportation corridor in the Kivalliq Region of northwestern Hudson Bay. This information will be invaluable in developing oil spill mitigation strategies, assessing the success of remediation strategies and helping establish responsibility for the spill.”

Dr. Gary Stern, Centre for Earth Observation Science, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources,  University of Manitoba

Quick facts

  • The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made by the Government of Canada to ensure our coasts are healthier, safer and better protected.

  • The $45.5 million Multi-Partner Research Initiative, announced in December 2017, is improving collaboration with oil response experts around the world, advancing oil spill research in Canada, and will help minimize the environmental impacts of oil spills.

  • The $50.8 million Coastal Environmental Baseline Program, part of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, is helping to collect wide-ranging scientific data in six marine ecosystems with high vessel traffic and coastline development: the Port of Vancouver, BC; the Port of Prince Rupert, BC; the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary, QC; the Port of Saint John, NB; Placentia Bay, NL; and Iqaluit, NU.

Associated links


Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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