Environmental advocates demand Ottawa enact stronger ocean protections at international marine conference doorstep

February 3, 2023
On the opening day of IMPAC5 in Vancouver, Stand.earth called on Transport Canada to step up for marine life and coastal communities

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — International marine conference goers were greeted by environmental advocates outside Vancouver’s Convention Centre today as they called on Canada’s federal government to enact stronger regulations that protect marine life and coastal communities from ocean pollution.

Today marked the opening day of the 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5), a global forum taking place in Vancouver until February 9, bringing together ocean conservation professionals, including policymakers and decision makers in Canada’s federal government. Environmental advocates from Stand.earth had a simple message for policymakers attending the conference: stop letting cruise ships treat B.C.’s coastlines like their personal toilet bowl.

“The cruise industry has long operated under lax federal oversight of its ocean dumping in Canada, lagging far behind the regulations in places like the U.S., said Anna Barford, Canada Shipping Campaigner with Stand.earth. “There is simply no excuse or justification for ocean pollution in Canadian jurisdictions, especially pollution that our neighbours’ are already successfully preventing.”

Today’s “meet and greet” comes on the heels of another demonstration by Stand.earth this week, where ocean advocates projected a video message onto Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge.

Over the last decade, the cruise ship industry on Canada’s West Coast has exploded. In 2019, more than one million passengers and crew from 30 different cruise ships visited the Victoria cruise terminal during 256 ship calls on their way to and from Alaska. During this time, the B.C coast was subjected to 32 billion litres of dumping of sewage, greywater, and acidic fossil fuel waste from scrubbers. These waste streams contain a variety of pollutants, including fecal coliform, ammonia, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are harmful to aquatic organisms and coastal ecosystems.

“Ottawa has a responsibility as host country for this international marine conference to show that they are more than just all talk when it comes to ocean protection,” said Barford. “Now is the time for Minster Alghabra and the entire Transport Canada office to match or exceed US regulations and immediately bring in stronger oversight of cruise ship pollution.” 

Transport Canada has finally begun to acknowledge the problem of cruise ship dumping, an issue neighbours in the US have led in addressing for over a decade. Last April, Transport Canada announced that it would improve measures on greywater and sewage pollution, a welcomed first step worth celebrating – as long as they actually become enforceable regulations before the start of the cruise season this spring. Meanwhile, the cruise industry continues to present itself as an important economic driver behind Victoria’s tourism industry despite analysis revealing that economic benefits of non-cruise tourism dwarf those from cruise tourism.

Stand.earth is calling on Canada’s federal government to support coastal communities by instituting an ambitious cruise ship pollution oversight program.

Video from Wednesday’s projection can be found here. Still images from today as well as Wednesday can be found here and will be updated throughout the day. All audiovisual content is available for media use.


Media contact: 

Anna Barford, Canadian Shipping Campaigner, anna@stand.earth, +1 778 580 7371 (Pacific Time)