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Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan: What it means for Canada’s regions

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Canadians rely on their coasts and waterways to earn a living, to import goods and to export Canadian products. Canadians also cherish them for cultural and recreational reasons. That’s why all Canadians will benefit from the Oceans Protection Plan. This plan will help keep Canada’s waters and coasts safe and clean for use today, while protecting them for future generations. Canada’s three coastlines – the West Coast, Arctic Coast and Atlantic Coast – are targeted for specific initiatives through the Oceans Protection Plan. Learn more about some of them below.


Few people understand the unique challenges of Canada’s West Coast better than the Indigenous and coastal communities who call these shores home. The Oceans Protection Plan will leverage this traditional knowledge, creating new Indigenous Community Response Teams which will offer training for search and rescue, environmental response, and incident command. This will enable these communities to play a greater role in marine safety. Shared leadership opportunities with Indigenous and coastal communities in a number of areas related to managing vessel navigation locally will also be pursued.

The Oceans Protection Plan will increase West Coast towing capacity to enable rescue towing of large vessels and container ships. Building on previous pilot projects, a new regional oil spill response plan for the northern region of the West Coast will be developed to ensure a more efficient and effective response to marine incidents there. Four new lifeboat stations will be built in strategic locations to improve response times. 


For residents of Canada’s North, marine transportation is an essential lifeline. Ships bring food and other goods necessary for survival, while representing critical jobs and employment opportunities. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada will make investments to make Arctic resupply operations faster, safer and more efficient for remote communities. In addition, a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary for the Arctic will be created, bolstering capacity to respond to emergencies and pollution incidents, with up to eight new community response boats being available. A seasonal inshore rescue boat station will also be created, enhancing northern search and rescue capacity.

Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreakers presence in the Arctic will also be extended to support mariners earlier and later in the season.

Internationally, aerial surveillance is considered the most effective method for detecting oil spills. The Oceans Protection Plan will improve the northern operations of Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program. Doing so will improve local marine pollution reporting, search and rescue capacity and satellite monitoring of vessels offshore, which also supports Canadian sovereignty. 


Today, the East Coast is one of the busiest shipping routes in the country. Marine shipping has always been a part of Atlantic Canada’s identity which explains the region’s strong history of and commitment to marine transportation safety. Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre will be reopened in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and two new lifeboat stations will be opened in strategic locations with a view to: improving local response capacity to all-hazard marine incidents and addressing the unique search and rescue needs of the area. Re-opening the centre will also provide jobs to those with local expertise and knowledge. In addition, to better understand how to help marine mammals in the Bay of Fundy to thrive, investments will be made to study their behaviours and their ecosystems.

Marine incidents can happen anywhere in the world, and there is no one approach that works best in all cases. The Oceans Protection Plan will invest in the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to increase international scientific collaboration on oil spill response.

Canada’s Coasts: Common Challenges

Canadian coasts have their own unique characteristics, but also share common challenges. The Oceans Protection Plan addresses these challenges in the following ways: regulatory changes, including tougher response requirements for oil spills will be implemented; the Canadian Coast Guard will be equipped with towing capability for major vessels on all coasts; investments in research and technology will help give mariners, Indigenous communities and coastal communities real-time access to information on marine shipping activities and tools, making navigation safer in local waters; the DFO Science Canadian Hydrographic Service will make progress in hydrography and charting key areas of Canada’s coastlines – the world’s longest – and inland waterways such as the St. Lawrence Seaway; and the effects of shipping on marine ecosystems will be researched.

The Oceans Protection Plan also includes a comprehensive package of measures that address abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels and makes owners responsible and liable for clean-up costs. The Government of Canada will work in collaboration with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities to support the clean-up of existing smaller vessels that pose risks, and implement a robust, polluter-pay approach for future vessel clean-up. This will help to prevent problem vessels such as the Manolis L off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Kathryn Spirit in Beauharnois, Quebec, and the Viki Lyne II in Ladysmith Harbour, British Columbia from occurring and placing burdens on local communities.

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