The Oceans Protection Plan
Canadians rely on their coasts and waterways to earn a living, to import goods and to export Canadian products. The Government of Canada is working hard to make sure our country will benefit from health oceans for generations to come.
In November 2016, the Prime Minister launched the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan, the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways, while also growing our economy.
During the past year, the Government of Canada has already invested more than $450 million through the Oceans Protection Plan and launched several initiatives.
Creating stronger Indigenous partnerships and engaging coastal communities
Collaboration is the cornerstone of programs and initiatives launched under the Oceans Protection Plan and the Government of Canada values the traditional knowledge and expertise of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and coastal communities. Several meetings have been held with Indigenous groups to begin discussions on establishing implementation strategies supporting the advancement of the Oceans Protection Plan. In exploring ways for communities to become more involved in managing local waterways, the federal government is initiating pilot projects to develop an Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness tool that provides a user-friendly system to increase access to local maritime information – including vessel traffic. The government will also work with local communities to develop a national Proactive Vessel Management plan that will identify areas where local management actions could minimize environmental, cultural and social impacts, as well as conflicts between users.
Partnerships with Indigenous groups and local communities will be further strengthened through the expanded national Community Participation Funding Program. This program provides capacity funding to enable participation of Indigenous groups and local communities in the implementation of the Oceans Protection Plan.
Protecting the environment
A better understanding of how marine shipping is impacting our environment is essential to protect our oceans. The Government of Canada announced that it is implementing a national Coastal Environmental Baseline Program to better characterize coastal ecosystems and to help assess the impacts of human activities on our marine ecosystems.
Over the next five years, scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and community partners will collect comprehensive baseline data in six areas of the country where there is an existing or potential increase in vessel traffic.
To boost marine emergency prevention and response capacity, the Canadian Coast Guard will also establish six new radar stations, modernize emergency response equipment, and increase tow capacity. This will provide critical search and rescue services for Canadians.
In addition, the Coast Guard will be receiving new Search and Rescue lifeboats, five of which are committed under the Oceans Protection Plan. These assets will provide critical search and rescue services for Canadians.
Modernizing our marine safety system
As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is reviewing the Pilotage Act. The review will modernize its legislative and regulatory framework to help ensure pilotage services are delivered effectively. The review will focus on a wide range of topics drawn from stakeholder feedback during recent consultations. This includes tariffs, service delivery, governance, and dispute resolution.
The government is also establishing seven new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat stations, and creating 24/7 emergency management and response capacity within the Coast Guard’s three existing Regional Operations Centres across Canada, to better plan and coordinate effective response during an incident.
Transport Canada is adopting the Incident Command System — an all-hazards management system used internationally — to strengthen our response to marine incidents and enable us to work seamlessly with its partners.
Supporting science-based decisions
The Government of Canada has committed to making science the cornerstone of public policy. By funding ocean and freshwater research, we are building our research capacity to reinforce our science-based approach to marine management.
As part of the Government of Canada’s investments in science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has established a Partnership Fund, which provides $5 million per year in support of collaborative research and to increase collective understanding of our oceans and freshwater.
The Government announced an investment of close to $20 million over five years for modern and improved hydrography and charting in areas of high traffic, commercial ports and waterways, to make navigation safer.
Removing abandoned boats and wrecks
One important element of the Oceans Protection Plan’s national strategy on abandoned and wrecked vessels is related to abandoned small boats in Canada. These can pollute the marine environment, harm local businesses such as tourism and fisheries, damage infrastructure, interfere with navigation, and pose safety risks to Canadians.
Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program provides funding to help communities remove and dispose of abandoned or wrecked small boats in all other Canadian waters other than small craft harbours. Additionally this program will better inform Canadians of their responsibility to properly dispose of boats and decrease the number of vessels abandoned on our coasts.
The Fisheries and Oceans Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal program provides funding to Harbour Authorities and other recipients to remove and dispose of abandoned and wrecked vessels located in federal small craft harbours.
And most recently, the Government of Canada introduced the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act. This will bring the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 into law and address Canadian’s concerns regarding wrecked and abandoned vessels that pose a danger or impediment to navigation, or that may result in major harmful consequences to the marine environment, the coastline or other coastal interests.
Protecting Canada’s whale populations
The Government of Canada places a high priority on protecting endangered and at-risk whale populations. Following a series of in-person consultation sessions last August, the government launched Let’s Talk Whales, an online public engagement site to propose recovery measures that will help three endangered whale populations, the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the St-Lawrence Estuary Beluga and the North Atlantic Right Whale in Canada. The government also hosted a symposium in Vancouver to explore collaborative options to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Participants discussed the latest science on contaminants, prey availability, and underwater noise within the Southern Resident Killer Whale habitat and began the critical work of charting an integrated path to the recovery of the species.
While the planning and resourcing phase of some initiatives are underway, participation remains a key component. There will be several opportunities for Canadians to provide input into decisions, and there is much more to come as all players collaborate in finding solutions to protect our coasts. We invite all Canadians to consult the Let’s Talk – Oceans Protection Plan portal and get involved in the discussions.
To learn more about the Oceans Protection Plan, visit http://www.tc.gc.ca/en/campaigns/protecting-coasts.html.
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