IFAW calls on Senate to Pass Bill C-15

Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Ottawa, Canada
IFAW today expressed outrage that eider ducks were victims of deliberate and illegal bilge oil dumping off the coast of Newfoundland over the weekend. Officials at the Canadian Wildlife Service in St. John’s confirmed today that 1200 eider ducks have been affected by the oil spill so far.  IFAW is calling upon the senate to save Canada’s beloved seabirds by swiftly passing Bill C-15. 
Bill C-15, which passed third reading in the House of Commons in December and is now being reviewed by Senate.  The Bill seeks tougher penalties for the owners and crew of ships who illegally dispose of their oil at sea instead of in port and includes a minimum fine of $500,000.  The highest fine ever dealt for this offence in Canada was $ 125,000.  In the U.S. a Japanese Transport Company was fined $ 2 million USD in February 2005 after dumping oily waste into the Pacific Ocean.   

“Canada’s oceans are turning in to an oily dumping ground and Atlantic Canada’s cherished seabirds are paying the price,” IFAW’s Emergency Relief representative Kim Elmslie said. “Every year 300,000 seabirds die off the coast of Newfoundland due to deliberate bilge oil dumping from unscrupulous ships.  This is the same number of birds that died in the Exxon Valdez spill.”
 
Deliberate dumping is the illegal disposal of bilge oil at sea instead of at port to save time and money.  Ship crews know the Canadian coastline is long, surveillance sporadic, and even if caught, the fines low.  “This silent killer will continue unless there are significant economic deterrents,” Elmslie said, “Passing Bill C-15 is an important first step.”
 
This is not the first such incident in Newfoundland this winter.  At the end of November 2004 oiled birds started washing ashore after the Terra Nova platform spill.  Chemical analysis of the feather samples determined that ships passing through the area illegally dumped their bilge and oiled the birds.

Backgrounder on Bill C-15
Summary of Problem:
Off the southern coast of Newfoundland, illegal and deliberate ship source oil pollution (deliberate dumping) is killing 300,000 seabirds every year  - the same number of birds that died in the Exxon Valdez Spill.  Vessels dump oil at sea instead of going into port to save time and money.  The death of such an extraordinary number of birds is merely incidental.  Unscrupulous vessel captains know that Canada’s capacity to survey the waters of the Northwest Atlantic is limited.  In the zone off Newfoundland, an average of just 3.6 percent of the area is surveyed each day (this is 2.5 and almost 5 times less than in the UK and the Baltic Sea, respectively).  This is compounded by the fact that planes are unable to find polluters in the fog or in the dark.  In the winter months, a vessel can dump oil and be several hours and hundreds of kilometres away before its slick is even detected.  (Note: I-STOP an innovative satellite-monitoring program is being used off the coast of Newfoundland.  Satellite images detect anomalies on the surface of the ocean that may indicate dumped oil, however, a surveillance plane must still be available to identify the slick and find the offending vessel).  Only a small percentage of investigations lead to prosecutions, only 3-5offshore deliberate dumping cases were actually prosecuted in Atlantic Canada between 2000-2002 – of which only one case per year was from Newfoundland (actual cases: 2000: 5 cases, 2001: 4 cases, 2002: 3 cases).    In the few cases that do get prosecuted, small fines have been imposed.  Small fines do not act as a deterrent for polluters, it is merely part of the cost of doing business.  The highest fine to date in Canada is $125,000CAD on average fines are approx. 30,000CAD.  Although the fines handed out by Canada courts are increasing, they are still substantially lower than fines in similar cases in the USA or UK, which see fines of $509,000USD and $411,000USD, respectively.  In February 2005 the Fujitrans Corporation, a Japanese transportation company, pled guilty to four felony charges and was fined $ 2 million US for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in the United States.  (From the Oil Spill Intelligence Report Feb 24 2005)

The threat of a fine is what creates the deterrent to not pollute; by keeping fines low in Canada we have built an economic environment in which it pays to pollute.  Fines need to be increased and act as a true economic deterrent.  

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