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The Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping: What we've heard so far

Engagement – What we’ve heard 

Over the past 8 months, we have engaged with people across the country on key questions to help outline a national assessment framework. We have also received information through our online Let’s Talk Oceans Protection Plan engagement site and through project-specific environmental assessments done within the last few years.

Our engagement has focused on collecting information and hearing perspectives about the following questions:

  • In what ways do you think maritime activities affect the environment?
  • Do you have any factors to be considered for the geographic extent of our pilot sites?
  • Do you have any factors to be considered for the temporal scale of our pilot sites?
  • In what ways do maritime activities impact Indigenous Nations use of the pilot study environments?

The following is a summary of the information and perspectives heard on the above. If you have any additional input, please send an email to TC.MarineAssessment-EvaluationMaritime.TC@tc.gc.ca


In what ways do you think maritime activities affect the environment?

What we’ve heard so far:

Seven broad categories of potential stressors coming from marine vessel activities were identified through engagement. Under each category, a list of specific stressors stemming from these vessel activities were brought forward for consideration.

1) In-water works: Log-booming, Dredging, Disposal at sea

  • Hydrology
  • Erosion
  • Sediment accretion/Release
  • Landscape changes
  • Wood debris
  • Contaminants
  • Changes in animal behaviour

2) Anchoring

  • Substrate disturbance
  • Light
  • Noise
  • Vibration
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Pathogens
  • Entanglement
  • Contaminants

3) Grounding, Wrecking

  • Substrate disturbance
  • Light
  • Noise
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Debris
  • Cargo release
  • Contaminants

4) Discharge: Operational

  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Pathogens
  • Debris
  • Oils
  • Grey water and sewage
  • Chemicals
  • Contaminants
  • Air emissions
  • Nutrient enrichment
  • Salinity
  • Climate change
  • Biotoxins

5) Discharge: Accidental

  • Oil spill/Contaminants
  • Cargo release
  • Substrate disturbance
  • Air emissions
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Garbage
  • Plastics release

6) Movement Underway

  • Substrate disturbance
  • Light
  • Noise
  • Vibration
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Pathogens
  • Wake/wash
  • Erosion
  • Strikes
  • Ice-breaking
  • Entanglement/Entrapment
  • Disruption to migration routes/nesting
  • Military activities

7) Harvesting

  • Wake/wash
  • Loss of gear
  • Loss of resources/habitat
  • Entanglement
  • Sediment disturbance


Do you have any factors to be considered for the geographic extent of our pilot sites?

What we’ve heard so far:

  • The pilot site area should cover areas where valued parts of the environment are impacted.
  • Include the St. Lawrence fluvial area (a crucial area with major port development projects). Evaluate the effects on the whole system, not just one part of it.
  • The spatial boundaries can be linked to known boundaries: such as fishing boundaries, the respective territories of Indigenous Nations, critical habitat, rockfish conservation areas, tidally influenced areas, etc.
  • Use pilotage areas out to 12nm, shipping lanes (where applicable), areas of heaviest traffic, vessel traffic corridors/ level and distribution of marine traffic, disposal at sea areas. Consider tide and current movement / discharges, spill trajectory from shipping routes.
  • Need to account for data collection trade-offs and getting the most value for money when filling data gaps recognizing timelines of study. Synchronize and build on previous research, data, and knowledge from Indigenous peoples and other user groups.
  • The incorporation of community and Indigenous knowledge, land and resource use, ecological, technical and social, cultural considerations.
  • Use a combination of geographical and ecological boundaries such as watersheds, movement of fish stock/species ranges, migration routes, corridors, timing of migration, areas of ecological diversity and biological complexity, sensitivity and risk.
  • No single scale will be universally appropriate for all valued components or even for distinct types of impacts on the same valued component. Consider a range and fluidity of scales that may be suitable.
  • Consider being able to subtract out other stressors, outside of vessel activities.


What factors should be considered regarding the time scale for the assessment of our pilot sites (for example, how far back or forward in time should our assessment of impacts be in these areas)?

What we’ve heard so far:

  • Go beyond a snapshot in time within constraints of time/budget and available data. Use a sliding temporal scale that matches the diversity of valued components studied and available data.
  • Integrate historical academic available data to look at a ‘pre-impacted’ state of the ecosystem.
  • Select a time in the past when the valued component was most abundant / least affected by human activities.
  • Compensate for seasonal variation by collecting supporting data, quarterly or as appropriate for the valued component.
  • Consider a date before large-scale industrial development (~1950); based on biological studies, archaeological evidence, oral history, Indigenous knowledge. Ex. before the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1954.
  • Consider the timeframe that has seen the greatest increase in shipping traffic (last 10, 20 and 30 years).
  • Consider how much impact has already happened and how much the environment can handle (tipping points/thresholds).
  • Consider when the habitat was suitable, capable. Can use both quantitative and qualitative approaches to reconstruct historical data and its reliability.
  • Factor Indigenous knowledge into determination of temporal boundaries.
  • Consider how the data will be used and how gaps in historical data and validation of data will be managed.
  • Consider a range of approaches to create the baseline, such as using Indigenous knowledge of historical species populations; examining the scientific data/evidence available and using this information to determine the temporal starting point.


 In what ways do maritime activities impact Indigenous people’s use of the pilot study environment?

What we’ve heard so far:

  • Contamination and disruption of fishing resources.
  • Loss of viable habitat for fishing and increased mortality of coastal plant and shellfish resources.
  • Loss of catch and fishing gear.
  • Risks to safety and travelling on the water.
  • Loss of fishing grounds/time to fish and avoidance of areas. Loss of access to areas to exercise rights.
  • Hazards and loss of habitat from wakes.
  • Disruption of migration routes and lifecycles.
  • Impacts on species of ceremonial importance: marine mammals and coastal, migratory birds and waterfowl
  • Personal safety threatened (sinking of boats).
  • Impacts to lifestyle, culture heritage/spiritually important sites, cultural journeys, legacy sites, landscapes, governance and quality of life; visual disruption.
  • Impacts on Indigenous Peoples connections to water and land, transfer of knowledge, and customs, traditions or practices.
  • The ability to access the foreshore; loss of hunting opportunities; Impacts to archaeology sites; increased shoreline erosion, sediment accretion.
  • Pollution from marine litter and debris impacting fishing resources. Fears about eating contaminated fish/seafood.
  • Loss of opportunities to teach traditional knowledge and stories to youth due to reduction in culturally important species, traditional activities, and access to important sites.
  • Transmission of cultural knowledge, including traditional harvesting and ceremonial practices, geographic and historical knowledge, including place names and spatial connectivity.
  • Tangible/intangible loss of culture
  • Impacts on connections integral to Indigenous society; impacts to traditional governance
  • Financial losses from marine accidents
  • Losses on tourism activities owned by Indigenous peoples.
  • Ice breaker movements disrupt, destruct and fragment hunting, fishing, calving, habitat, migration activities, and wave impacts on the permafrost.
  • Impacts of heavy fuel usage on arctic communities; increases in ocean temperature leading to increases in invasive species impacting ways of life.
  • Perception of impacts from pollution on rights based harvesting.