Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, announced new funding to increase the number of flights to monitor and detect pollution from ships in Canada’s waters.

The National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) is one of the main pillars of the federal government’s Pollution Prevention Program and is the government’s primary tool for detecting ship-source pollution. The federal government is now approximately doubling funding for the program, to $47.6 million over the next five years. This funding allows for significantly more flight hours to detect pollution.

Nationally, surveillance hours flown will increase from 2,080 to 3,750 hours. On the West Coast, for the next three years, surveillance hours will be increased from 500 to 700 hours, and then to 1,200 hours in 2016/17 and beyond. Aerial surveillance of tankers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Harbour has already increased, as well as surveillance in Prince Rupert and Kitimat.

NASP flew 2,080 patrol hours in 2012-13. During these patrols, 10,134 vessels were overflown, 97 pollution sightings were detected, of which 14 were of a known source and 120,075 vessels were monitored using the Automatic Identification System. This tracking system automatically provides updates on a vessel’s position and other relevant ship voyage data to marine vessel traffic operators. Its purpose is to enhance the Canadian Coast Guard’s ability to identify and monitor maritime traffic approaching and operating in Canadian waters.

There has been a noticeable decline in the number of spills observed since the program was established in 1991. The surveillance fleet consists of three modernized aircraft strategically placed across the country. The information generated by Environment Canada’s Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution program serves as an early warning indication for areas of potential pollution to assist the NASP crew in performing surveillance activities on Canada’s coastal waters. Transport Canada may recommend prosecuting marine polluters based on evidence gathered by the aircrew as part of their duties to help enforce domestic and international laws. Transport Canada investigations have led to numerous successful prosecutions against marine polluters over the years, with some cases resulting in significant financial penalties.