Ocean Health the Focus of Pollutiontracker Initiative in B.C.

Vancouver, B.C. – A new project by Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute, to track the health of B.C.’s coastal waters, has been given a major boost by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Launched late last year under the Research Institute’s Ocean Pollution Research Program, PollutionTracker is a science-based monitoring program that will evaluate the status and trends of pollutants in coastal British Columbia by analyzing samples of sediment and mussels from a network of geographically distributed sampling stations.

“British Columbia is not immune to significant pollution threats; our killer whales are now recognized as the most PCB-contaminated marine mammals in the world,” said Dr. Peter Ross, director of Ocean Pollution Research at the Institute. “PollutionTracker will fill a notable void in our understanding of the health of the coastal environment and identify emerging pollution issues. The information we gather will be freely available to the public and will help guide solutions to human-caused impacts on ocean life.”

As a founding partner in the project, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program is providing $300,000 over two years, which will support sample collection, laboratory analysis and data interpretation for 10 PollutionTracker stations in Burrard Inlet, the Strait of Georgia and the Gulf Islands. PollutionTracker will document the levels of such notorious contaminants as PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and microplastics.

“High quality data gathered through PollutionTracker will help to inform the development of best practices and sustainable activities, and will assist in the reduction of threats posed by pollutants to endangered southern resident killer whales and their food sources,” said Duncan Wilson, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “We are proud to be a part of this great initiative that will serve to provide the ECHO program with vitally important scientific insight.”

Aquarium researchers are in the process of collecting and analyzing samples. Once established, PollutionTracker will:

  • Measure priority pollutants in sediments and mussels in coastal B.C.;
  • Establish much-needed baselines and create an early warning platform for new pollutants;
  • Track pollution trends over time and space, and report these as part of a series of “ocean health indicators”;
  • Develop site-specific partnerships with First Nations and community organizations to conduct sampling and roll out results-based educational products.

PollutionTracker is one of the great projects we’re launching through the Coastal Ocean Research Institute,” said Dr. Andrew Day, the Institute’s executive director. “The projects, and partners like Port of Vancouver, help us report on the health of our marine ecosystems and to deepen our understanding of future changes.”

Coastal Ocean Research Institute

Established to measure and monitor the health of coastal ecosystems, the Coastal Ocean Research Institute produces and communicates scientific knowledge and understanding about Canada’s West Coast. Established by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, the Research Institute is grateful for its generous founding partners the Sitka Foundation and North Growth Foundation.

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org.

Port of Vancouver

The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and the third largest tonnage port in North America, responsible for Canada’s trade with more than 170 world economies. Located in a naturally beautiful setting on Canada’s west coast, Port of Vancouver is responsible for the efficient and reliable movement of goods and passengers, and integrates environmental, social and economic sustainability initiatives into all areas of port operations. Enabling the trade of approximately $200 billion in goods in 2015, the port generates an estimated 100,000 jobs, $6.1 billion in wages, and $9.7 billion in GDP across Canada.

The ECHO Program is a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led collaborative science-based initiative aimed at better understanding and managing the impacts of shipping on at-risk whales in British Columbia.


Note: photos and footage of researchers conducting sampling is available upon request.

Media Contact

April Penney
Ocean Wise