Pollution in Paradise: Dumping by Ships in Canada's Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), ocean dumping, vessel pollution
Stephanie Hewson, Staff Lawyer

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are areas of the ocean that are legally protected and managed to achieve the long-term conservation of nature. Canada, in keeping with international guidance, has committed to protecting 30% of its ocean spaces by 2030, and thus far has designated 14% of its ocean spaces as MPAs. However, these MPAs will only be as strong as the legal protections afforded to them.

Despite commitments from the federal government to implement minimum standards to restrict harmful industrial activities in MPAs, ship-source discharges and dumping are major sources of pollution that threaten MPAs in all three of Canada’s ocean basins. This brief takes a closer look at Canada's most important laws on dumping, identifying significant legal loopholes that continue to permit dumping in almost all Canadian MPAs.

This analysis demonstrates that in the most important and most vulnerable marine ecosystems of Canada, which have been designated for special protection, dumping can continue as if the area were wholly unprotected. Canada can and should put stricter laws in place prohibiting all harmful dumping within MPAs, including the most common discharges like sewage, greywater and scrubber washwater.

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