Union of B.C Municipalities pass historic motion urging governments to do more on ocean acidic dumping

Friday September 16, 2022

Local officials ramp up protection efforts as coastal communities sound the alarm on the impacts of shipping on marine ecosystems

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — B.C municipalities passed a motion today with unanimous support escalating the urgency for ocean protections against acidic dumping from oceangoing vessels. 

Following up on a resolution passed in May by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA), this motion was passed at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) at their annual convention in Whistler. It calls on the B.C. government to advocate to the federal government on the issue of acidic ocean dumping from exhaust gas cleaning systems on ships (sometimes called scrubbers), as part of a comprehensive B.C. Coastal Marine Strategy.

“Today’s vote is part of the growing chorus of voices calling for pollution prevention and ocean protections,” said Anna Barford, Canada Shipping Campaigner. “Municipalities understand the importance of a thriving coastal ecosystem, and they are calling on other levels of government to follow the leadership of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to ban scrubbers. There is no excuse for pollution that can be prevented.”

Acidic dumping from scrubbers is laden with toxins and carcinogens, and has been shown to kill plankton, the basis for the marine foodweb. Ocean dumping from vessels comes primarily from cruise ships, and the 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, 32 billion litres of  sewage, greywater, and acidic fossil fuel combustion waste from scrubbers was dumped along the B.C. coast from these vessels. Transport Canada has announced voluntary measures to deal with 2 billion litres of sewage and greywater – however they are leaving oceans and coastal communities to face major threats from the remaining 30 billion (more than 90 per cent) of waste streams.

This motion comes on the heels of an ongoing and increasing chorus of people echoing their concerns about the impacts of shipping on coastal communities and our oceans. In April, Stand.earth delivered a petition signed by over 50,000 people to Ministers Alghabra, Murray, and Guilbeault calling on the federal government to end cruise ship dumping. 

“Very decisive and clear support from local governments committed to protecting our marine environment and coast,’ said Pete Fry, Vancouver City Councillor. “Really fantastic work to get here with support of Stand and Vancouver Fraser Port authority to highlight this issue.”

Transport Canada has finally begun to acknowledge the problem of cruise ship dumping, but still isn’t doing enough. Last month, Transport Canada released its first industry self-report on voluntary cruise ship dumping measures, but it lacks critical information needed to better protect Canada’s coastline. Meanwhile, an Access to Information and Privacy Request obtained by National Observer revealed that Transport Canada planned to crack down on the cruise ship industry’s biggest source of pollution earlier this year, but instead let the cruise ship industry talk them out of it.

Stand.earth is calling for better protections for the ocean including no discharge zones in protected areas, cleaner fuel mandates that prevent acidic dumping, and strict treatment requirements in line with our immediate neighbours and protection of endangered species like the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

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Media contact: 

Ziona Eyob, Media Director - Canada, canadamedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)