Ocean dumping regulations welcomed, but not enough to keep cruise ships from treating Canada’s coastline like their personal toilet bowl

April 4, 2022

Stand.earth reacts to new environmental measures from Transport Canada 

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — Transport Canada announced today that it will improve regulation on greywater and sewage pollution, a welcomed first step for better protecting Canada’s oceans, but not nearly enough to prevent cruise ships from treating the British Columbia coastline as its personal toilet bowl. More than 50,000 Stand Community Members have called on Transport Canada to stop dumping, and Transport is finally taking an initial step to address this massive pollution problem.

The cruise ship industry on Canada’s West Coast has exploded over the last decade. 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. Dealing with sewage and greywater addresses 2 billion litres – leaving oceans and coastal communities to face major threats from the remaining 30 billions (93 per cent) of pollution. These waste streams contain a variety of pollutants, including fecal coliform, ammonia, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, harmful to aquatic organisms and coastal ecosystems.

The industry is dominated by Carnival Corporation, whose brands include Princess, Aida, and Holland America Line – all of which have been subject to criminal prosecution for a number of environmental misdeeds in other jurisdictions including dumping in parks, preparing for inspections, and breaking the terms of their probation.

“This announcement is a great show for the environment, but without mandatory regulations and enforcement these voluntary measures lack the strength to protect our oceans and coastal communities from these untrustworthy corporate actors,” said Anna Barford, Canada Shipping Campaigner with Stand.earth, based in Vancouver. “The cruise sector has a history of repeated felony environmental violations of US and international laws. Canada cannot take the cruise industry’s word that it will comply with these measures in our waters. Regulatory enforcement and oversight are necessary requirements to ensure their compliance.”

Transport Canada is beginning to acknowledge the problem of cruise ship dumping, an issue neighbours in the US have led in addressing for over a decade. These new measures are a good first step and worth celebrating – as long as they actually become regulations and therefore enforceable. 

“These new measures demonstrate that Transport Canada is responding to the increasing public outcry against the cruise sector using Canada’s waters as their dumping ground,” said Barford. “Stand applauds this first step to begin addressing the cruise ship ocean dumping problem, something our US neighbours have stringently regulated years ago. However, voluntary measures are not adequate. We call on Transport Canada to rapidly implement mandatory regulations that meet or exceed those of the US, which are stronger than the international standards, and institute a robust oversight and public reporting framework.”

According to the recent IPCC report on climate change, damages will accelerate as temperatures rise further, causing unprecedented costs to people, economies and the environment that will be worse than any seen so far. Current emission plans would mean hundreds of millions of people suffering from extreme heat waves, ocean acidification, food supplies being disrupted, economic damages escalating and natural systems collapsing – with much greater costs than have been seen so far. In 2021 alone, the B.C. Coroner reported that nearly 600 British Columbians perished in one week due to extreme heat, which also killed 1 billion sea creatures, from the unprecedented heat dome last summer.

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen and travelers increase, reinvigorating the cruise ship industry post-COVID without including updated and strengthened mandatory regulations that protect our coastlines from cruise ship pollution would be indefensible. Stand.earth is calling on Canada’s federal government to match our neighbours and institute an ambitious oversight program with permanent, time dependent measures including scrubber waste management, third party monitoring, and new standards for marine protected areas.


Media contact: Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, Stand.earth. +1 604 757 7279, ziona@stand.earth