Canada’s new $80M oil spill protection investment relies on ocean modelling, joint research

Canada’s National Oceans Protection Plan.
Canada’s National Oceans Protection Plan.
Canada’s National Oceans Protection Plan.

A key plank of a new federal government initiative to protect Canada’s oceans from oil spills involves a $45.5-million program to “leverage collaboration among the best researchers across the country and around the world,” Fisheries and Oceans Canada has announced.

Led by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the new five-year multi-partner research initiative will include a $10 million-a-year research fund to let scientists work on how oil spills behave, discover new technologies and protocols to contain spills, and how to best minimize oil spill impact. The research initiative will also connect with oil spill experts in government, industry and academia, Indigenous and coastal communities, regulatory agencies, and response organizations.

The federal department has also announced $17.7 million towards “enhancing” ocean models of winds, waves and currents. These updates are intended to give emergency responders better tools to track oil spills and predict their path, as well as allow for safer marine navigation in general. Advanced ocean modelling work will be conducted in six priority ports: Kitimat, Port-Metro Vancouver, and Fraser River Port in British Columbia; the Port of Canso, Nova Scotia; the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick, and the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to Montreal.

“Science will form the foundation of our world-leading marine safety system,” announced Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “This new investment in research and new technologies will allow us to better prevent and respond to potential marine incidents and will help us protect Canada’s marine ecosystems from coast to coast to coast.”

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Additional funding announced includes $16.8 million for oil spill research to “better understand how oil behaves and degrades in different conditions, including cold water,” according to a statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Maritimes Region. Fisheries and Oceans Canada says these funds will go towards its National Contaminants Advisory Group (NCAG) administering projects on oil and gas contaminants research. Working with universities and other research organizations, NCAG says it aims to better understand the biological effects of contaminants on aquatic species.

Projects announced under NCAG and the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan are listed below. For even more details on these projects, please click here.

RecipientName of research projectYears of research projectFunding contribution from DFO
Simon Fraser University
(Dr. Kennedy)
The environmental effects of diluted bitumen on marine phytoplankton,
macroalgae and intertidal vascular
plants (three years)
University of Saskatchewan
(Dr. Jardine)
Evaluating effects of the Husky
Energy pipeline spill on fishes in the
North Saskatchewan River (three years)
University of Victoria
(Dr. Helbing)
Enabling rapid evaluation of
biological effects of oil spills on
juvenile Pacific salmon in coastal
habitats (three years)
Institut national
de la recherche scientifique -
Centre Eau Terre
(Dr. Couture)
Examination of the toxicity of
diluted bitumen on freshwater fish
(three years)
Institut national de la
recherche scientifique -
Centre Eau Terre
(Dr. Langlois)
Responses of wild fish to a
controlled spill of diluted bitumen in
enclosures deployed in a boreal lake
at the International Institute for
Sustainable Development-
Experimental Lake Area (IISD-
ELA), Northwestern Ontario
(four years)
University of Guelph
(Dr. Gillis)
Effects and biomarkers of diluted
bitumen exposure relevant to
seawater transition in Atlantic
salmon (Salmo salar)
(three years)
Dalhousie University
(Dr. Niu)
Modeling the fate/transport of
refined oil products and assessment
of their biological effects
(one year)
2017 – 2018$60,000
Total: $1,405,000


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