Skip to content

New Interim Order fails to plug hole that dumps 32 billions litres of waste into B.C. ocean

June 6, 2024

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) – As coastal B.C. ecosystems and local communities brace for the annual cruise ship season, the Canadian Transport Ministry just released an “Interim Order” on cruise ship pollution that continues to permit the dumping of 32 billion litres of waste into the waters off the BC coast.

The holes in the interim measures were pointed out in a report released by and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – British Columbia last month to guide the Transport Ministry towards protecting coastal waters and communities. It still stands.

“What is it going to take for the Transport Ministry to get serious about defending the coasts from pollution? This lazy cut-and-paste of last year’s Interim Order still permits 32 billion litres of sewage, and ships’ waste to be dumped annually – the equivalent of half the world flushing a toilet into the coastal waters off B.C.” said Anna Barford, shipping campaigner with “The Transport Ministry had an opportunity to remedy this by extending the application of cruise ship discharge regulations to the entirety of Canada’s jurisdiction in the territorial sea, prohibiting the use of scrubbers under Canada’s jurisdiction, and putting into place regular, independent third-party monitoring while cruise ships are underway to ensure discharge requirements are met. They have ignored our recommendations to the detriment of marine life and coastal ecosystems and communities.”

Scrubbers are devices on ships to treat exhaust gasses. They take sulphur from fuel and dump it into the sea in the form of wastewater, essentially turning air pollution into water pollution. Greywater is wastewater from toilets, sinks, showers and appliances, like dishwashers and laundry machines. It is a significant source of microplastics.

“The Great Bear Sea is home to many threatened and vulnerable species as well as species that have great cultural and food importance. The dumping of this much wastewater is a massive threat to the animals and plants that live there, such as orcas and humpback whales, and also to the local communities that depend on a healthy and abundant ocean,” says Kate MacMillan, conservation director for the ocean program at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – British Columbia Chapter.

Transport Canada’s original Interim Order from June 9, 2023 allowed vessels to continue to discharge sewage, greywater and scrubber wastewater along the B.C. coast and inlets. The entire Great Bear Sea, including the proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network, is not protected from the dumping of this scrubber wastewater. Transport Canada changed nothing this year.

“Additionally, this interim order seems to contradict Canada’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Protection Standard which looks to prohibit ocean dumping in MPAs. With an MPA Network being planned for the Great Bear Sea, the future health and resilience is being put at risk,” says MacMillan.

The report that and CPAWS-BC released last month found that approximately 35% of the proposed MPA Network is open to the discharge of untreated sewage and greywater through unregulated “toilet bowls”. Additionally, specific geographic exemptions potentially permit the discharge of sewage and greywater along the entirety of the Great Bear Sea’s complex coastlines.

The report made multiple recommendations such as legally requiring cruise ships to have holding tanks that are of adequate size and eliminating the exemption that permits cruise ships to discharge in areas where the shores are narrower than six nautical miles wide.

“The Transport Ministry has so far ignored us about this. They have even ignored reporters about this. They cannot, however, ignore the local communities demanding cleaner waters, or the science which is clear about the impacts of cruise ship dumping on the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales”

Link to the report.
Link to the report release.

Kate MacMillan,
Conservation Director, Ocean Program
604-685-7445 x 6

Anna Barford
Canada Shipping Campaigner
+1 604-757-7029