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Research Project

Assessing Sensitivity of Coastal Areas to Oil Spills

In this Report, You’ll Learn About

  • The identification of coastal areas sensitive to oil spills on the Pacific Coast of Canada
  • Different dimensions of area sensitivity, including biological, physical, and socio-economic sensitivity
  • An interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) web-map where you can view coastal area sensitivity measures


Clear Seas worked with its research partner Dillon Consulting Ltd. to identify sensitive coastal areas along most of Canada’s Pacific Coast. The identification of sensitive coastal areas is part of a broader Marine Transportation Corridors initiative undertaken by Clear Seas, which uses multi-layered geo-spatial analysis to support marine spatial planning by describing risks related to marine shipping activities on Canada’s Pacific Coast.

Publicly available data were collected and analyzed to identify areas and regions within the study area that are relatively more vulnerable if an oil spill were to occur near them and a score was assigned based on these data. The assessment was limited to publicly available datasets that could be easily obtained and used without licensing so the results of the assessment could be shared without restriction.  Results of the analysis can be viewed in an interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) web-map here.

Key Takeaway

This study identifies and scores sensitive coastal areas on the Pacific Coast of Canada based on three sensitivity scores: biological, physical, and socio-economic sensitivity. The results of the assessment indicate that the areas most sensitive to oil spills generally occur close to the shore, which can be viewed as “Areas of Interest” in the interactive web-map tool.

Result Highlights

The results of the assessment indicate that the areas most sensitive to oil spills generally occur close to the shore.

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Sensitive areas identified during the assessment include Haida Gwaii, the Northern and Central Coast, and the North and West Coast of Vancouver Island. 

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The method used to determine and score sensitive coastal areas is based on an ArcGIS workflow that can be easily updated to include other measures of sensitivity, such as Indigenous, which will need to be incorporated at a future date in partnership with First Nations.

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Events and Workshops


Additional Resources

YouTube tutorial:

Research Team

Dillon Consulting Ltd. on behalf of Clear Seas.

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