May 19, 2005 09:31 ET

Groups praise politicians as seabird protection bill passed

Bill -C-15 becomes law and will help prevent the death of 300,000 seabirds from ship source bilge oil Attention: Environment Editor, News Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 19, 2005) - Several of Canada's leading conservation and animal welfare organizations, as well as BirdLife International today are praising both the government and opposition parties for helping to quickly pass Bill C-15 which will help protect seabirds off Canada's coasts. The Bill, which has now become law, is designed to bring an end to the dumping of bilge oil from ships, which results in the deaths of some 300,000 seabirds annually off the coast of Newfoundland alone.

With the possible dissolution of parliament, supporters of the Bill were concerned that it would die on the order paper in the Senate, as had a previous version, Bill C-34.

"This Bill represents a tremendous effort by a great number of people including Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, Environment Critic Bob Mills and members of the Senate who sat long hours in order to see this Bill passed," said Josh Laughren, Conservation Director, World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada). "This is an important step forward towards protecting seabirds and restoring the health the Grand Banks ecosystem."

The new law will hold shipping companies and their ships' officers accountable if they illegally dump bilge oil in Canadian waters. Vessels over 5,000 dead weight tonnes found guilty of contravening the Migratory Birds Convention Act would face a minimum fine of $100,000 for a summary conviction and $500,000 for an indictable offence. These minimum fines will help bring Canada's penalties in line with fines in the United States.

"The new fines laid out in this law will help ensure that Canadian waters are no longer a cheap dumping ground for irresponsible players in the global shipping industry," said Kim Elmslie, Emergency Relief Campaigner, International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW). "Before this law was passed, fines in Canada were much lower than in the United States and bilge oil was often dumped in Canadian waters. This was because it was cheaper than proper disposal methods and the risk and consequences of getting caught were very low. Now this is no longer the case."

"This is very good news for wildlife and for those residents of Newfoundland who many times a year had to witness thousands of dead and dying oil-soaked seabirds washing up on shore," said Elizabeth May, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada. "We could not be more pleased that politicians and Senators worked together to enact this critical piece of environmental legislation which should quickly reduce the number of seabirds needlessly killed every year, and more generally better protect our fragile ocean environment."

In May 2004, the federal Government took an important step forward in protecting Canada's ocean habitat when an earlier version of Bill C-15 (Bill C-34) was introduced into the House of Commons. That Bill had garnered support from all parties in the House before it died on the order paper when an election was called. It was reintroduced in the House of Commons as Bill C-15, again was passed with all party support and had been before the Senate since December 2004.

"The Senate has stood up for wildlife, Canada's coastal communities and those in the shipping community - the majority - who responsibly dispose of their wastes," said Rob Rainer, speaking on behalf of BirdLife International and its Canadian co-partners, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada. "By passing Bill C-15, the Senate has played a crucial role in helping protect Canada's marine ecosystems now and into the future and we congratulate them in this effort."

/For further information: Josh Laughren, Conservation Director, WWF-Canada
Cell: 416-577-3131

Kim Elmslie, Emergency Relief Campaigner, IFAW
Cell: 613-878-4329 Office: 613-241-8996 x 223

Elizabeth May, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada
Office: (613) 241-4611

Rob Rainer, Director of Conservation, Nature Canada
Office: 613-562-3447 x 225

Contact Information

  • Kyle Ferguson, Manager, Communications, World Wildlife Fund Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-484-7728
    E-mail: kferguson@wwfcanada.org