Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan (OPP) just got an upgrade. The federal government will invest billions over the next nine years. They plan to build more coast guard stations and work with coastal Indigenous folks to build an Indigenous-led coast guard.
All of this sounds great. But if you’re swimming near a ship, you’ll still be swimming in shit.
That’s because cruise ships will still be allowed to dump their waste in our waters.
The multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment missed some pretty glaring issues.
Anna Barford is the Canada Shipping Campaigner for Stand.earth. “Transport Canada claims that the OPP is a Canadian success story, but a toilet bowl and ocean acidification on tap are hardly successful policy choices for the coast,” she said.
“Our neighbours in Puget Sound, the State of Alaska and California have all brought in policy solutions to protect the coast, so why is Canada legalizing pollution instead of preventing it?”
The cruise ship industry off the west coast of Canada 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. They made 256 ship calls on their way to and from Alaska.
Waters on the Washington State side have become “no discharge zones.” Canada doesn’t have any laws like that. So ships store their waste till they cross the border.
That means in 2019, visiting ships dumped 32 billion litres of sewage, greywater, and acidic fossil fuel waste from scrubbers in and around VanIsle.
The amount of dumped waste went down during the early part of the pandemic. But with protections easing up and cruise ships returning, these numbers will be back in no time.
All this dumping pollutes our coastal waters. It’s bad for fish, seals, whales, and us.
It also boosts e-coli levels, which can make people really sick. Bowen Island off Vancouver currently has advisories at multiple public beaches because of high levels of e-coli. So does Gonzales Bay in Victoria.
But it’s not just a problem for folks down Island. All those ships sail north to the Johnstone Strait to get to Alaska. There isn’t much to stop them from dumping.
That means salmon passing through to reach the Fraser are swimming through toxic bilge water.
Despite this, the changes to the Ocean Protection Plan ignored the loopholes that allow dumping. We’ll just have more coast guards to protect our ocean toilet.
Want to do something about it? Call your MP. Tell them you don’t want our ocean to be an outhouse for Norwegian Cruise Lines.