Recreational marine traffic a major pollutant on Pacific Coast

Image from Wikipedia.

Image from Wikipedia.

Calgary – A newly published study shows that oil discharges related to human maritime activity on the Canadian coast is posing a major threat to marine ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean.

The study, published in the August edition of the journal Applied Geography, provides a geospatial analysis of oil discharges in the Canadian Pacific Ocean, and found that a large portion of these discharges were from recreational marine activities, including recreational boats, fishing vessels, commercial cruise ships and private marinas.

According to this scientific analysis – conducted on oil spills observed by the National Aerial Surveillance Program with the use of remote sensing devices – these sources are polluting the ocean along the British Columbia coast even more than oil tankers and commercial cargo ships.

“Cargo ships and oil tankers are much more regulated with portside inspections and they have to meet certain standards,” explains lead author Stefania Bertazzon, an associate professor in geography at the University of Calgary. “They’re very aware of this surveillance and this is probably why our analysis suggests that they are responsible for a smaller portion of detected oil discharges. They have to be more careful.”

Bertazzon adds: “We’re not saying that cargo ships and oil tankers are not polluting. What we are saying is that they are not the only source of pollution in the Canadian Pacific Ocean.”

While there’s no denying the impact of large-scale oil industry disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, Bertazzon argues that the oil discharges related to maritime activities are even more devastating to marine ecosystems in the long run.

“There is scientific evidence to show that these day-to-day activities have a larger impact on the wildlife and the marine ecosystem than those accidents that are huge, but limited in space and time,” says Bertazzon. “What we’re talking about happens every day, all along the coast. The impact is longer term and over a larger spatial extent.”