Canada protects industry over oceans as it welcomes 31 billion litres of pollution back into the ocean

Thursday July 15, 2021

Minister Alghabra’s latest ruling means the West Coast is once again Canada’s toilet bowl

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra is welcoming back cruise ships as of November 1 this year, ending the reprieve from billions of litres in cruise pollution. Just one day after Venice, Italy, announced wide-sweeping protections from cruise pollution, Canada opted to welcome it back without any mention of the environmental toll of cruise ships.

According to a report released in February by Stand.earth and West Coast Environmental Law report, from California to Alaska, coastal jurisdictions are leading the way in protecting Pacific waterways from cruise ship pollution—except Canada, where limits are 18 times less stringent and discharges are allowed anywhere including protected areas, fishing grounds, and critical habitat.  

Canada is in sharp contrast not only to our direct neighbours, but also globally, as Italy yesterday moved to protect the Venician lagoon from cruise pollution. Unless Transport Canada quickly makes moves to match our neighbours, dozens of cruise ships will return in the Spring of 2022 passing through BC waters on their way to and from Alaska. They will leave in their wake 31 billion litres of cruise ship pollution laden with fecal coliform, ammonia, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—pollutants that are harmful to human health, aquatic organisms and coastal ecosystems. 

“Strengthening Canada’s abysmally weak ocean dumping laws will create local jobs, allow ecosystems to thrive, and protect coastal communities,” said Anna Barford, Canada Shipping Campaigner with Stand.earth. “The announcement today came without any mention of the environmental toll from cruise ships. While other countries are using this restart as an opportunity to rethink cruise and implement protections, Canada’s protection of the industry over the ocean is embarrassing."

The cruise industry is dominated by Carnival Corporation, a group that can hardly be trusted to manage its waste. Its cruise brands include Princess, Aida, and Holland America Line, and have been subject to criminal prosecution for a number of environmental misdeeds in other jurisdictions.  Canada still has significant work to do as there are no monitoring schemes that could collect data or catch the polluters red-handed. 

Reinvigorating the cruise ship industry post-COVID without including updated and strengthened regulations that protect our coastlines is indefensible. Stand.earth is calling on Canada’s federal government to use this critical time to improve the laws and regulations that could protect our shellfish beds, critical habitats, and coastal communities.

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Media contact: 

Anna Barford, Canadian Shipping Campaigner, anna@stand.earth, +1 778 580 7371 (Pacific Time)