Government of Canada invests in research to study the effects of contaminants on Pacific aquatic ecosystems 

News release

March 29, 2021                                    

Ottawa, Ontario - The Government of Canada is further investing in research to better inform the protection of our oceans, lakes, rivers and waterways and the many species that call them home. The unfortunate reality is that microplastics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and oil- and gas-related contaminants enter our water systems due to human activity. This means we must continue to study and understand the threats that our ecosystems face.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, announced $1,185,144 in funding for research that will take place on the west coast. This funding supports three research projects addressing the biological effects of contaminants on aquatic species.

Ocean Wise received funding for two separate research projects. One project will benefit from $284,326 in funding over three years to study the level of contaminants of concern in Southern Resident killer whales and evaluate related health impacts. Ocean Wise also received $274,822 in funding over three years to study the toxicity of microplastics in the Strait of Georgia.

Simon Fraser University received $625,996 in funding over two years to study several factors that affect how contaminants related to oil spills impact Pacific marine species including oysters, sea urchins and herring. This project is funded under the Oceans Protection Plan’s Fate, Behaviour, and Effects Initiative, which aims to better understand oil spill behaviour so we can better inform the protection of our waterways against its biological effects.

The Government of Canada will continue to invest in science and research to und,erstand what our oceans, lakes, rivers, and waterways need to sustain the countless lifeforms that call them home. When we better understand a problem, we are better equipped to address it. Whether it is studying the impact of contaminants on the iconic species that Canadians love, like killer whales, or studying the toxicity of contaminants in aquatic environments, today’s investment will help collect the data and information needed to keep Canada’s waterways healthy for generations to come. 

Quotes

“The Pacific Ocean is the source of some of Canada’s most iconic species and ecosystems. It is critical that we study and understand all threats, including contaminants, to our aquatic ecosystems to ensure that these bodies of water can continue to sustain the countless resources and livelihoods they generate. Today’s investments will strengthen Canada’s blue economy and ensure it continues to be grounded in science and sustainability.”

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Through the Oceans Protection Plan, we are building a marine safety system with stronger protections for marine species than ever before. We're accomplishing this by bringing together science, technology and traditional knowledge to protect Canada’s unique coastal ecosystem from coast-to-coast-to-coast. The results of these research projects will help us further protect the marine ecosystem, our communities and our economy.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport

“In British Columbia, the health and sustainability of our sensitive coastal marine environment is of critical importance. Today’s investment in contaminant research is pivotal in protecting ecosystems, as well as developing, and sustaining, a thriving blue economy in Canada. Our government’s two-year investment in the study undertaken by scientists at Simon Fraser University, the largest investment in Canada, will evaluate the impact of polyaromatic compounds and hydrocarbon mixtures on marine life in the Pacific.”

Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Member of Parliament for Burnaby North - Seymour

“Ocean Wise thanks Fisheries and Oceans Canada for their support of two important Ocean Wise conservation research projects over the coming three years. Ocean Wise’s project studying microplastics in the Salish Sea will be led by Dr. Anna Posacka, in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, and will examine the thresholds for negative impacts of microplastic textile fibres in the food web. Dr. Marie Noel will lead our investigation into the health effects of priority chemical contaminants in B.C’s three killer whale populations. Ocean Wise’s vision is a world in which oceans are healthy and flourishing and findings from these research initiatives will better equip government and industry to protect Canada’s marine environment and contribute to a strong Blue Economy.”

Lasse Gustavsson, President and CEO, Ocean Wise

“This funding will help us understand and predict the effects and risks of oil spills on marine organisms by evaluating the toxicity of whole oil and polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACS). It will examine PAC toxicity on a variety of marine organisms and evaluate the effects of marine diesel, crude oil, and fresh diluted bitumen on the Pacific oyster. The data will aid in the development of oil spill models, risk assessment, oil spill responses, and oil spill monitoring plans for managing marine organisms in the event of potential spills in this and other coastal areas of Canada.”

Dr. Chris Kennedy, Professor, Aquatic Toxicology, Simon Fraser University

Quick facts

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Science Sector funds research on the biological effects of contaminants. 

  • The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. This national plan is creating a stronger marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines and clean water for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities. 

  • Since the Oceans Protection Plan started in November 2016, over 50 initiatives have been announced in the areas of marine safety, research and ecosystem protection that span coast-to-coast-to-coast.  The Fate, Behaviour and Effects Initiative supports research on oil spill behaviour, its biological effects and potential mitigation measures.

  • Minister Jordan launched the engagement on Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy on February 8, 2021. The World Bank defines the blue economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health. Canada’s ocean sectors contribute approximately $31.7 billion annually in gross domestic product and account for close to 300,000 jobs

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Contacts

Jane Deeks
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
343-550-9594
Jane.Deeks@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-990-7537
Media.xncr@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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