Ottawa boosts ship surveillance

Amy Smart / Times Colonist
February 20, 2014

Vancouver Island environmental groups are warning that a federal plan to expand marine pollution surveillance won’t be effective against a major spill.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday that funding for the aerial surveillance program will increase from $5 million to roughly $10 million a year over five years, allowing the country’s three surveillance aircrafts to increase the number of flights to spot oil spills off Canadian coasts.

The fleet currently spends 2,080 hours a year in the air and Raitt said that time will increase to 3,750 with the new money.

“On the West Coast, what it means is that surveillance hours increase from 500 to 700 hours until 2017-2018, and at that time, it’s going to increase to 1,200 hours,” she said at a media event in Richmond.

A Transport Canada official said the West Coast plane currently flies five to six times per week, up to 300 kilometres off the coast.

Brian Falconer, marine operations co-ordinator for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said pollution-monitoring is positive but has nothing to do with potential spills…

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