Minister of Transport announces new regulations to help prevent spread of aquatic invasive species in Canada

·6 min read

OTTAWA, ON, June 23, 2021 /CNW/ - Canada's coasts and waterways are vital to our environment, livelihoods, and economy, and must be protected. Ballast water, which helps keep vessels stable in the water, can accidentally introduce and spread aquatic invasive species, like the zebra mussel, if released in the water untreated. These invasive species have severe economic and environmental impacts on ecosystems and industries as they harm plants and animals, degrade beaches, impair fisheries, disrupt infrastructure, and create prevention and control expenses.

To further protect Canadian waters, the Government of Canada is taking action to limit the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in ballast water. Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced the coming into force of the new Ballast Water Regulations to strengthen existing rules for vessels on international voyages and the introduction of new rules for vessels which remain in Canada and on the Great Lakes.

These regulations, which replace the Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations, apply to vessels in Canadian waters and to Canadian vessels anywhere in the world. They are based on a global approach to manage ballast water. Vessels are now required to:

  • plan their ballast water management and reduce the number of organisms in their ballast water, typically by installing a ballast water management system; and

  • carry a valid certificate, keep records, and be regularly surveyed and inspected. Smaller vessels may follow an equivalent approach tailored to their operations and size.

The Government of Canada's focus is on protecting species at risk, and being leaders in nature conservation. This will only be achieved by ensuring nature conservation is integrated with our climate strategies to protect our wildlife and stabilize the climate.


"The Government of Canada is taking action to prevent aquatic species invasions which harm the environment and the Canadian economy. The new Ballast Water Regulations will limit the introduction and spread of these species by vessels while protecting Canada's biodiversity. Together, we will make Canada's oceans safer, cleaner, and healthier for our children and grandchildren and chart a clear path toward a future that is driven by sustainability, resilience and prosperity for all Canadians.

The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport

"Our ecosystems, coasts and waterways transcend borders. Protecting them for future generations requires strong international cooperation. Canada is committed to fulfilling our international commitments to protect our environment while building a safer and more resilient future."

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Foreign Affairs

"In order to protect our waterways, and the fish and ecosystems they sustain we must take preventative action now when it comes to aquatic invasive species. The new Ballast Water Regulations are a part of our commitment to combat aquatic invasive species and the threat they pose to our Blue Economy."

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"The Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Fishery Commission congratulates Transport Canada for issuing these ballast water rules. These rules mandate ballast water treatment technologies and the continued use of ballast water exchange for fresh waters. Together, these requirements will significantly reduce the risk of introduction and spread of harmful invasive species. Since the Great Lakes are a shared, binational resource, the Commission calls upon the United States to follow Canada's lead by issuing similar regulations."

Jim McKane
Chair, Canadian Section of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Quick Facts

  • Ballast water is critical for the safe operation of vessels, adding weight so a vessel floats at the right depth and remains level and stable. Ballast water may be taken on board or released during cargo operations or when extra stability is needed in poor weather.

  • The Ballast Water Regulations were pre-published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on June 8, 2019.

  • The regulations address Canada's obligations under the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004. Common rules will allow Canada to co-operate with 85 other countries, representing 91% of the world's fleet.

  • The new regulations reflect years of discussions with industry, scientists, engineers, United States legislators and regulators, and international partners.

  • As a result of the regulations, around 34 species will not be introduced and spread in Canada by 2044, including five severely damaging species. By preventing harm to the environment, the regulations are expected to provide $980 million of economic benefit over this period.

  • At Canadian Great Lakes ports, it is estimated that by 2030, the use of ballast water management systems by all vessels will help reduce the spread of invasive species by 82%.

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June 23, 2021

Ballast Water Regulations


The new Ballast Water Regulations aim to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species within Canada, as well as their transfer from Canada to other countries, and to help protect global biodiversity.

The new regulations mark a transition from the traditional method of ballast water management (the exchange of ballast water in mid-ocean) to the use of modern ballast water management systems (which clean ballast water of organisms before release).

Canadian ships travelling abroad and those coming into Canada from abroad are now required to meet standards by 2024. Canadian vessels that do not voyage internationally, other than to U.S. Great Lakes ports, need to meet the new standards depending on when they were built:

  • all newly built vessels will have to meet standards at launch.

  • existing Great Lakes and Canadian domestic vessels built before 2009 will be required to meet standards by 2030.

  • all other existing vessels built in or after 2009 will be required to meet standards by 2024.

To increase environmental protection for sensitive Canadian fresh waters, vessels arriving in these waters from another country (other than from U.S. Great Lakes waters) will exchange their ballast water in mid-ocean in addition to using a ballast water management system.

Ballast water and the Great Lakes

The regulations apply to all Canada's marine environments, including the Great Lakes, which are shared by Canada and the U.S. Although the U.S. has not joined the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004, both countries co-operate in this region under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, aiming to have compatible regulations.

Great Lakes ballast water can be difficult to manage because the lakes are cold, fresh, and mixed with sediment. Despite this, the use of ballast water management systems in these waters substantially reduces environmental risks. As needed, ballast water taken on board in these areas is considered to meet standards when a suitable system is installed on time and properly used and maintained.

U.S. engagement and alignment

Canada has taken ongoing U.S. regulatory processes into account while developing the new regulations and envisions increased regulatory compatibility over time. Canada will continue to work with the U.S. towards binational compatibility to strengthen protection of our shared waters and facilitate vessel compliance.

U.S. vessels will be required to follow the same rules as Canadian vessels when doing business in Canada which involves taking ballast water onboard or releasing it. However, Canada will not regulate U.S. vessels which only pass through Canadian waters while travelling between U.S. ports without taking on or releasing ballast water.

By implementing these new regulations, the Government of Canada is ensuring that ballast water poses the lowest possible risk to our local and global environment and economy.

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SOURCE Transport Canada


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