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Nearly three years ago, the federal government adopted new “minimum standards” to prohibit dumping in marine protected areas (MPAs). But belugas, killer whales, seabirds, and other at-risk species are still threatened by harmful waste dumped by ships.

Canada shouldn’t call an area protected if any dumping is allowed.

WWF-Canada’s National Vessel Dumping Assessment found that ships generate a staggering 147 billion litres of operational waste in Canadian waters each year. That’s equivalent to 59,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Scrubber washwater — produced by ship exhaust cleaning systems — accounts for 97 per cent of the waste generated. Most scrubber-equipped ships use open-loop systems that release it right back into the sea. By looking at how much time ships spent in MPAs and other protected ocean areas, the assessment found up to 14.5 billion litres of this dangerous waste are dumped in protected areas.


This washwater can be over 100,000 times more acidic than the surface of the ocean. It also contains heavy metals and carcinogens, which worsen ocean acidification and hurt marine life.

Other harmful waste streams — greywater, bilge water, and sewage — can be held for safer disposal. But without a regulatory framework to ensure this happens, there’s no way to confirm how much waste is actually being held and how much is dumped in MPAs.

Now is your chance to demand better and ensure Canada’s MPAs are protected in more than name only. The federal government is currently defining what counts as “dumping” and how this standard will be enforced. It’s critical they get this right, or we risk having MPA protections that are too weak to effectively safeguard wildlife.

Send a strong message to the government that “no dumping” must mean no to all dumping.

Nearly three years ago, the federal government adopted new “minimum standards” to prohibit dumping in marine protected areas (MPAs). But belugas, killer whales, seabirds, and other at-risk species are still threatened by harmful waste dumped by ships.

Canada shouldn’t call an area protected if any dumping is allowed.

WWF-Canada’s National Vessel Dumping Assessment found that ships generate a staggering 147 billion litres of operational waste in Canadian waters each year. That’s equivalent to 59,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Scrubber washwater — produced by ship exhaust cleaning systems — accounts for 97 per cent of the waste generated. Most scrubber-equipped ships use open-loop systems that release it right back into the sea. By looking at how much time ships spent in MPAs and other protected ocean areas, the assessment found up to 14.5 billion litres of this dangerous waste are dumped in protected areas.

This washwater can be over 100,000 times more acidic than the surface of the ocean. It also contains heavy metals and carcinogens, which worsen ocean acidification and hurt marine life.

Other harmful waste streams — greywater, bilge water, and sewage — can be held for safer disposal. But without a regulatory framework to ensure this happens, there’s no way to confirm how much waste is actually being held and how much is dumped in MPAs.

Now is your chance to demand better and ensure Canada’s MPAs are protected in more than name only. The federal government is currently defining what counts as “dumping” and how this standard will be enforced. It’s critical they get this right, or we risk having MPA protections that are too weak to effectively safeguard wildlife.

Send a strong message to the government that “no dumping” must mean no to all dumping.


This washwater can be over 100,000 times more acidic than the surface of the ocean. It also contains heavy metals and carcinogens, which worsen ocean acidification and hurt marine life.

Other harmful waste streams — greywater, bilge water, and sewage — can be held for safer disposal. But without a regulatory framework to ensure this happens, there’s no way to confirm how much waste is actually being held and how much is dumped in MPAs.

Now is your chance to demand better and ensure Canada’s MPAs are protected in more than name only. The federal government is currently defining what counts as “dumping” and how this standard will be enforced. It’s critical they get this right, or we risk having MPA protections that are too weak to effectively safeguard wildlife.

Send a strong message to the government that “no dumping” must mean no to all dumping.

Add Your Voice

Download Summary Report:

Ships are dumping billions of litres of harmful waste in marine protected areas every year. Tell the government that dumping and marine protection don’t mix.

as of May 4th 2022

Emails sent to the government:

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15,952

Ban all Dumping
in protected ocean areas

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A DEEP DIVE INTO DUMPING

Scroll through our top 10 findings to see why a comprehensive ban on dumping in protected ocean areas is needed now.

For the first time, WWF-Canada’s National Vessel Dumping Assessment modelled exactly how much waste is being produced by ships as well as how much of certain waste streams are being dumped in protected areas. It raises important questions about how the government can ensure that other dangerous waste streams — such as greywater, bilge water, and sewage — don’t make their way into MPAs.

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1

147 billion litres of operational waste is generated by ships in Canadian waters annually. That’s equivalent to 59,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

© Photographer / WWF-Canada

 © sbedaux / iStock

© Orbon Alija / Gettyimages

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Nearly 10 per cent of that waste is generated and dumped in the protected parts of Canada’s oceans.

© Photographer / WWF-Canada

© Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canada

© Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock

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Protected areas with high ship traffic are most impacted by dumping. Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area in B.C., for example, has more waste generated in it than any other protected area.

© Maren Esmark / WWF

© Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock    

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Although there’s less overall ship traffic and waste produced in the Arctic than on the east and west coasts, the proportion of waste produced in the region’s protected areas is greater.

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5

143 billion litres of scrubber washwater is generated annually. It’s by far the largest waste stream in our study, accounting for 97 per cent of total waste.

Scrubber washwater is the by-product of removing sulfur oxides from the engine and boiler exhaust gas produced from burning heavy fuel oil. It contributes to ocean acidification, which can prevent marine wildlife like corals from growing healthy skeletons and fighting off disease. It’s also full of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are toxic and may have carcinogenic effects.

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© Evie Fjord / Unsplash

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6

3.6 billion litres of greywater from sinks, showers, kitchens, and laundry facilities is generated annually — 233 million litres is potentially dumped in protected areas.

Greywater can contain microplastics, grease, cleaners, pesticides, metals, bacteria and viruses that harm wildlife and accumulate in the food web. The high nutrient content of greywater can contribute to favourable conditions for harmful algal blooms, which can create toxins as well as low oxygen dead zones in our oceans.

© Naomi Marcin / Shutterstock

© Orbon Alija / Gettyimages

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7

549.8 million litres of sewage, also known as blackwater, is generated annually — 34.6 million litres is potentially dumped in protected areas.

Sewage water includes drainage from toilets, waste from sick bays, and live animal areas. It can contain high levels of bacteria and viruses, which can pose a risk to seafood consumers. Like greywater, sewage is high in nutrients that can contribute to excess algal growth.

Generally, sewage discharged within 12 nautical miles of shore must be treated first. However, MPAs and other protected ocean areas often extend well beyond the 12 nautical mile limit. And, reports from multiple countries suggest that ship sewage treatment plants regularly fail to meet minimum effluent requirements.

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8

77.5 million litres of bilge water is generated annually — 5.2 million litres is created and potentially dumped in MPAs and other protected areas.

Bilge water is the oily liquid waste that collects at the lowest part of a ship. It is generally noxious and can contain a range of toxic substances, including surfactants and drainage from machinery areas.

© Ondrej Prosicky / Shutterstock

© muratart / Shutterstock

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9

Cruise ships lead the production of every waste stream modelled in this study, despite making up only 2 per cent of the ships in our analysis. Cruise ships account for 78 per cent of greywater, 70 per cent of sewage, 59 per cent of scrubber washwater, and 32 per cent of bilge water generated in Canada’s protected areas.

© Photographer / WWF-Canada

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© Tory Kallman / Shutterstock

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10

Dumping can affect people too. Heavy metals, microplastics, and viruses and bacteria in the waste dumped by ships can make their way through the marine food web and into what we eat.

© Gilbert Van Ryckevorsel / WWF-Canada

TELL CANADA: DUMPING AND MARINE PROTECTION DON’T MIX.

Download the

Summary Report

Download the National Vessel Dumping Assessment full report

Add Your Voice

WWF-Canada. 2022. National Vessel Dumping Assessment: Quantifying the threat of ship waste to Canada’s marine protected areas. Prepared by Davin S., Saunders. S., Liang C., Merritt W. World Wildlife Fund Canada. Toronto, Canada.

This WWF-Canada report could not have been developed without the expertise, analytical skills and contributions of several individuals: Dr. Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute; Liudmila Osipova, Dr. Bryan Comer and Elise Georgeff of International Council on Clean Transportation; Sarah Bobbe of Ocean Conservancy; Melissa Parks of Pew Charitable Trusts; and Sigrid Kuehnemund and Kimberley Dunn of WWF-Canada.

WWF-Canada is a federally registered charity (No. 11930 4954 RR0001), and an official national organization of World Wildlife Fund for Nature, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland. WWF is known as World Wildlife Fund in Canada and the U.S.  

Published (2022) by WWF-Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Any reproduction in full or in part of this publication must mention the title and credit the above-mentioned publisher as the copyright owner. © National Vessel Dumping Assessment (2022) WWF-Canada. No photographs from this production may be reproduced. All rights reserved. wwf.ca  

Cover photo:  © naturepl.com / Doug Allan / WWF

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