In this letter you will find information regarding the federal government’s proposed limits on vessel operational discharges in Marine Protected Areas. Formal consultation on these proposals is expected to begin this spring, resulting in new regulations in 2025/ 2026.
As previously reported, Canada has set a goal to protect 30% of its oceans by 2030 through the designation of number of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs in Canada have historically each had restrictions on activities, created based on the ecological features of the specific area being protected. With some exceptions, navigation in accordance with relevant law (e.g., the Canada Shipping Act) has been permitted in these areas.
In 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a set of ‘Protection Standards’ for Marine Protected Areas, which created greater regulatory consistency by prohibiting ‘oil and gas exploration and exploitation, mining, dumping, and bottom trawling.’ Because dumping at sea is already prohibited under international law, this aspect of the ‘Protection Standard’ has been the subject of confusion and disagreement. The Federation has flagged the inappropriateness of this term in a shipping context on a number of occasions, and the government has been working on clarifying what this prohibition means.
Proposed Regulatory Prohibitions on Vessel Discharges in MPAs
The government has now released a new set of ‘Protection Standards” that no longer use the term ‘dumping’ in the context of shipping, which we see as a win. Nevertheless, the standard proposes limitations or prohibitions in Marine Protected Areas out to 12 nautical miles on a number of vessel discharges, as per below:
- oily engine bilge
- sewage (blackwater)
- food waste
- scrubber washwater
With the exception of scrubber washwater (which will be covered in a separate CL), these substances are already limited or prohibited to various degrees under current Canadian regulations.
Members should also note that Canada will be pursuing a voluntary approach for vessel discharges occurring in Marine Protected Areas outside the 12 nautical mile limit.
The Federation’s Position
The Federation has engaged with Transport Canada on this subject a number of times including via our Environment Committee, and was part of a panel with TC at the international Marine Protected Area conference where the above announcement was made. During these interactions, we have flagged the need for more clarity around the operational feasibility of proposed prohibitions, the need to better understand any potential unintended consequences, and the need to consider how these measures will be effectively communicated to international vessels. We are also seeking greater visibility as to the specific locations in which these measures will be implemented, i.e., where new Marine Protected Areas are anticipated to be created between now and 2030.
We will continue to raise these questions with Transport Canada and also plan to participate in the formal consultations that are anticipated to begin this spring. In the meantime, members with questions regarding any of the above are most welcome to contact me for additional information.
Manager, Enviornmental and Regulatory Affairs