New Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations only a First Step

Environmental groups from British Columbia are cautiously welcoming the new pollution prevention regulations under the Canada Shipping Act and see it as a first step to protecting Canada’s sensitive marine ecosystem.  They are also encouraging the government to build on these regulations in the years to come, however the regulations will only be successful when they provide infrastructure like sewage pump-out facilities to support them.

“These regulations are an improvement to what’s in place now, and a starting point for further efforts to protect our waters from vessel pollution on our coast,” says Mike Richards, Green Boating Program Coordinator of the Nanaimo-based Georgia Strait Alliance. “We are hoping that the government will commit funds to turn the much needed marine sewage pump-out facilities into a reality.”

The regulations include sections that will limit the amount of raw sewage being dumped by small vessels in sensitive areas of BC’s coast. “Requiring all vessels with toilets to have holding tanks will go a long way towards keeping sewage pollution out of bays, inlets estuaries and other sensitive ecosystems,” says Jim McIsaac, Clean Water Director for the Victoria-based T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.

Currently, however, there are not enough pump-out stations in which sewage can be discharged safely, and no plans to fund their construction.  Instead, Transport Canada introduced an exclusion section that will allow boaters to dump raw sewage.

The new regulations will be more closely aligned with those long in place in US waters.  “We are a good 15 years behind our southern neighbours on vessel pollution prevention, where strong regulations have been providing positive protection for our oceans.” says McIsaac, who has been working on vessel sewage issues for a decade.

In response to the lack of pump-out facilities, Georgia Strait Alliance, in association with T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, is creating a network of pump-out facilities in areas where they are needed. “Our Oceans Solution Project provides a unique solution to the pump-out dilemma,” says Richards. “It will provide the infrastructure needed and it could work on both coasts but we still need funding for it to proceed.”

For further information, please contact: Mike Richards – Program Coordinator, Georgia Strait Alliance (250) 753-3459

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