June 27, 2005 09:41 ET

WWF-Canada welcomes Federal commitment to stop illegal bilge-dumping

$3 million in funding will allow Canada to more fully protect the marine environment from polluters Attention: Environment Editor, News Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor, Transportation Editor HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(CCNMatthews - June 27, 2005) - In a press conference held Saturday, Environment Minister Stéphane Dion announced that Bill C-15, which will allow Canada to more fully protect the marine environment from polluters, will come into force on June 28, 2005. The minister pledged $3 million to back the recent legislation to protect seabirds and marine life off Canada's coasts. In addition, all penalties received under the Migratory Birds Convention Action will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund, which will allow access to additional funds for non-government groups to help reduce impacts from oil pollution. The Bill, which received Royal Assent on May 19, 2005, is designed to bring an end to the illegal dumping of bilge oil from ships, which results in the deaths of some 300,000 seabirds annually off the coast of Newfoundland alone.

Vessels over 5,000 dead weight tonnes found guilty of dumping bilge oil in Canadian waters 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. WWF-Canada has been working for over three years to help stop birds from being killed by oil spills off Canada's coasts, resulting in Bill C-15 becoming law.

Minister Dion made the announcement with Tom Osborne, the Minister of Environment and Conservation for Newfoundland and Labrador and Dr. Robert Rangeley, Atlantic Director for World Wildlife Fund Canada. All three stressed the need for collaboration with all levels of government, environmental non-government organizations and the shipping industry.

Rangeley congratulated the Minister on the passing of Bill C-15 and thanked those in government and non-government groups for the tremendous effort that made it happen. "This represents significant progress but the real celebration will happen when we can measure success on the water, with less oil dumped and less damage to our wildlife and ecosystems. Bill C-15 is all about making polluters pay and creating a deterrent so others won't pollute. To act as a successful deterrent, the new legislation needs to be backed by enhanced surveillance, using aircraft and radar satellite. This will send a strong message that Canadian waters are no longer a dumping ground for irresponsible players in the global shipping industry", said Rangeley.

"Government spending and money from the Environmental Damages Fund must also be invested in enhancing monitoring of oil and oily birds - at sea and on shore", said Rangeley. "We need a better picture of the health of the ocean and we need to be able to detect change. With the right programs in place, we will soon look forward to monitoring the success of these announcements in the years to come."

While bilge-dumping is a problem in all oceans, nowhere is the problem greater than on the Grand Banks and shores of Newfoundland. The Grand Banks of Newfoundland, once one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, has been both over fished and treated as a dumping ground.

"As happy as we are with the legislation, a law needs resources and political will in order to be effective. This first commitment of $3 million is an excellent indication of both," said Josh Laughren, Conservation Director, WWF-Canada. "This is an important step towards protecting seabirds and restoring the health of the Grand Banks ecosystem."

"WWF-Canada commits to continuing it's efforts to protect Canada's ocean habitats. We will work with governments, communities and industry to help send the message world-wide that Canada's oceans spaces and adjacent high seas must be protected," said Rangeley.

/For further information: Josh Laughren, Conservation Director (416) 484-7708/ IN: ENVIRONMENT, FISHERIES, TRANSPORT

Contact Information

  • Dr. Robert Rangeley, Marine Program Director, Atlantic Region, World Wildlife Fund Canada
    Primary Phone: 902-225-1541
    Secondary Phone: 902-482-1105
    E-mail: rrangeley@wwfcanada.org