Government of Canada is increasing its eyes in the sky with a new aircraft for its marine surveillance program

News release

January 30, 2020     Ottawa    Transport Canada

Canada's oceans are a source of inspiration and pride for all Canadians, and contribute to the growth of our economy. As overseas trade and the movement of goods grow, there is a need for greater emphasis on marine safety and environmental protection. Now more than ever, the Government of Canada recognizes that enhanced prevention measures are needed to respond to marine pollution incidents faster and more effectively, and to better protect marine ecosystems and habitats.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau announced that Transport Canada has acquired a new addition to its National Aerial Surveillance Program’s aircraft fleet.

Through the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan and the Whales Initiative, a De Havilland Dash 8 aircraft was acquired to increase the capacity of the National Aerial Surveillance Program. This Program’s marine surveillance missions include detecting oil spills and other marine pollution, and monitoring ship and endangered whale movements.

Over the next two years, the Dash 8 will undergo modifications to become a maritime patrol aircraft. The aircraft will be equipped with specialized maritime surveillance systems that are currently used on Transport Canada’s existing fleet.

Transport Canada is also building a new National Aerial Surveillance Program Complex in Iqaluit, Nunavut, to support northern operations.

Aerial surveillance is a vital tool to monitor Canada’s endangered, iconic whale populations, and decrease oil spills. It is used to monitor the designated shipping zones for endangered North Atlantic right whales, located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in Arctic operations such as verifying vessel pollution detected by satellites.


“Our Government is committed to safe navigation and protection of the marine environment. Expanding our surveillance aircraft fleet allows us to improve local marine reporting and reduce the frequency of oil spills in Canada. This supports our commitment to protecting the endangered marine mammal population.”

Minister of Transport
The Honourable Marc Garneau

“Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program is an essential piece of our government’s efforts to keep Canada’s coasts and inland waters safe and clean. I am pleased to support this work through the procurement of a new Dash 8 aircraft to enhance surveillance capacity under the program, leading to a cleaner environment and a safer shipping industry.”

The Honourable Anita Anand
Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Quick facts

  • Transport Canada’s surveillance aircraft are equipped with cameras that can covertly monitor vessels from five miles away and at 20,000 feet altitude.

  • National Aerial Surveillance Program aircraft are equipped with technology that can live stream video from the aircraft to personnel on the ground, in offices and to people’s phones.

  • The De Havilland Dash 8 aircraft was purchased pre-owned and had the lowest number of hours compared to any other Dash-8-100 aircraft on the market.

  • In 2018-2019, the National Aerial Surveillance Program set a record for the number of hours flown with a total of 4,152 hours of surveillance over 27,520 vessels for an average of 6.63 vessel over flights per hour.

Associated links


Amy Butcher
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

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