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Thinking the Unthinkable: How Prepared is Canada for an Oil Spill?


Clear Seas launches eighth webpage in key issues series to explain how ship-source spills are cleaned up in Canadian waters

Vancouver, BC, December 8, 2020 – Despite a drop in marine oil spills worldwide due to improved safety measures, Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping’s (Clear Seas) latest public opinion survey shows that spills in Canadian waters from tankers and ship fuel tops the concerns of Canadians. Catastrophic events such as the recent oil spill that occurred off the coast of Mauritius also raise questions about Canada’s ability to clean up oil spills and how to protect the marine environment and coastal communities.

To answer these questions, a new webpage explaining what happens when oil spills from a ship in Canadian waters has been released by Clear Seas. This first-of-its-kind webpage provides a comprehensive inventory of the resources in place to respond to a marine oil spill. It also breaks down the response sequence and the organizations that are involved in and responsible for containing and cleaning up a spill.

“First and foremost, while oil spills can and do happen in Canada, they are extremely rare. And fortunately, Canada has an extensive and proactive system in place that will help the clean up and minimize damage from a spill,” says Paul Blomerus, Executive Director of Clear Seas. The spills that do happen in Canada are mostly small (67% of ship-source spills between 2003-2012 were under 1,000 litres), originating from fishing boats and pleasure craft or classed as mystery spills.

Blomerus says that given the concerns Canadians have around shipping oil and gas by ship expressed in the latest Clear Seas survey, the page will be a timely addition to the public policy discussion around oil spill response and setting response standards.

While this new online resource focuses on responding to a spill, Blomerus says that prevention is still the best defence. This includes using marine pilots, mandating double-hulled tankers, strict navigation protocols and other regulations that work to ensure spills don’t happen.

You can visit the page and learn about Canada’s response efforts here.

About Clear Seas

Clear Seas is a not-for-profit independent research centre that provides impartial information on marine shipping in Canada to policy makers and the public. Its mandate is to initiate and interpret research, analyze policies, identify best practices, share information and facilitate dialogue. The organization’s research agenda is defined internally in response to current issues, reviewed by a research advisory committee, and approved by a board of directors. Clear Seas collaborates with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and experts to identify knowledge gaps, share results of existing studies, and facilitate new research to ensure decision makers have access to accurate, up-to-date information. All reports and findings are available at

Media Contact:

Edward Downing
Director of Communications
Tel.: (604) 408-1648 ext. 106 or cell (604) 817-3058

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