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Maintaining and Promoting Sustainable Navigation

Sustainable commercial and recreational navigation is essential for preserving the integrity of ecosystems. To this end, the St. Lawrence Action Plan supports cooperation among the various stakeholders by creating ways to promote exchanges and discussions and by publishing awareness tools for users.

Learn more about our projects that stem from this orientation and consult the Sustainable Navigation Strategy.

Projects 2016-2021

Participate actively in forums for consensus building aimed at the application of principles of sustainable commercial and recreational navigation

How can we apply sustainable development principles to navigation activities on the St. Lawrence? The Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC) proposes avenues for moving the discussion forward, among others, the second Sustainable Navigation Strategy, which reflects the common desire to address existing and emerging issues. This strategy proposes sustainable navigation principles that aim to the harmonizing of uses and to protecting a remarkable heritage for future generations.
The challenges of coordinating sustainable navigation on the St. Lawrence are numerous. Navigation activities, both commercial and recreational, must not damage the integrity of the ecosystems. In this context, certain approaches are considered, including the implementation of structures such as the NCC that facilitate the coordination of various stakeholders, and the publication of tools to raise awareness among users. 
The NCC brings together representatives of the Canadian and Quebec governments, the shipping industry, environmental groups and actors from the recreational navigation sector. Through active participation in various forums for consensus building, the committee can convey a vision of the St. Lawrence as a shipping route that must be protected, by proposing guidelines for sustainable navigation. The assimilation of this vision by decision-makers and stakeholders contribute to the implementation of concrete actions. Through the project, the NCC aims to continue its ongoing dialogue with the community and to present its work to a wider audience, in particular through seminars.

Reconcile interests to promote sustainable navigation

The Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC) was created in 1998. The committee consists of 25 members from various departments of the federal and Quebec governments, the marine industry and recreational boating associations, as well as environmental groups. It is co-chaired by representatives of Transport Canada and the Quebec Department of Transport. 

The committee’s objective is to harmonize shipping and recreational boating practices with the protection of ecosystems. Consequently, it is expected to reconcile the varied and sometimes divergent interests of the groups represented, notably with the aim of implementing the second Sustainable Navigation Strategy for the St. Lawrence.
Members of the NCC met 18 times between 2011 and 2016 and 14 times the following years of 2016 to 2021. More than 50 presentations were held at the meetings to better understand and discuss certain issues or projects related to the NCC’s action plan. The committee put a lot of energy and effort into developing the second Sustainable Navigation Strategy for the St. Lawrence. The coordination committee also maintained strong ties with two other committees: the Committee on the Integrated Management of Dredging and Sediments (CIMDS) and the Working Group on Marine Traffic and Protection of Marine Mammals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (G2T3M). In addition, the NCC established two sub-committees (transportation of hydrocarbons and recreational navigation) and is continuing its cooperation with the SLAP through two projects: monitoring boat speeds in certain stretches of the St. Lawrence and developing the guide titled Navigation on the St. Lawrence: Echo of the Past, Path to the Future.

Assess the cohabitation of fish and boats in the shipping lane

During another phase of the SLAP in which a project was carried out in collaboration with the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and the Fondation de la faune du Québec, our researchers discovered that 27 species of fish occupy the shipping channel, a habitat long believed to be hostile to fish. This new knowledge of marine life in the St. Lawrence must from now on be taken into account in Seaway development projects. Among the species inhabiting the channel are the Lake Sturgeon, the Sauger, the Walleye and the Channel Catfish, all significant species for commercial and sport fishing.
In this project, our researchers continue to study these fish to learn more about their behaviour. To do so, they use a telemetric network to detect the movement of fish in the St. Lawrence.

Voluntary speed-reduction measure for commercial vessels

Erosion is a phenomenon that affects all waterways and is the result of multiple factors. One of these factors is wave, or the action of waves beating against a waterway's banks as a result of wakes created by ships and pleasure craft.
In the fall of 2000, the maritime industry implemented a voluntary speed-reduction measure for commercial vessels in the Montreal-Sorel area of the St. Lawrence. Along a stretch close to 25 km long in the Sorel-Varennes sector, the measure strongly encourages marine pilots to reduce their speed to a maximum of 10 knots. Since the voluntary measure came into effect, the marine industry has shown a very high level of compliance. 
As part of the project, the speed of various vessels in these sensitive zones is recorded monthly to monitor the voluntary measure.

Projects 2011-2016

Create and participate actively in forums for consensus-building in relation to navigation

The aim of this project is to support the participants and collaborators in the St. Lawrence Action Plan in creating and participating actively in consensus-building forums dealing with the harmonization of navigation guidelines, policies, programs and practices.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Maintain the navigation and dredging coordination committees as part of integrated management of the St. Lawrence

This project targets ongoing collaboration with organizations in marine transport, recreational boating and civil society in the areas of navigation and dredging.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Develop an information guide on maritime transport

The goal of this project is to develop an information document for general public use that addresses the socioeconomic and environmental aspects of maritime transport.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Broaden the scope of the Dredging Activity Planning Registry

The purpose of the Dredging Activity Planning Registry is to facilitate the sharing of information between parties carrying out dredging activities and consultants, government authorities, nongovernmental organizations concerned with the environment and the general public. The registry will be expanded to include an interactive decision flow chart and downloadable best practices guides and reference documents. The objective of enhancing the existing registry is to create a one-stop shop where users can find comprehensive information about integrated dredging management.

Read the backgrounder for this project. Read also the Ecological Risk Assessment of Open-Water Sediment Disposal to Support the Management of Freshwater Dredging Projects guide.

Describing how fish use the shipping channel

The various dredging operations carried out in the shipping channel have increased its biodiversity. It is therefore important to better understand the relationship between the channel and the species that use it. The aim of this project is to continue the studies initiated under the auspices of the St. Lawrence Plan 2005-2010 to model the physical variables of the fish habitats in the St. Lawrence shipping channel and design a hatchling transport model.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Continue monitoring vessel speeds

Bank erosion is a complex phenomenon caused by multiple factors, some of them natural, such as ice movement, currents, storm freshets, snow melt and ice jams in addition to tides. Causes of human origin, meanwhile, include wakes, or the waves generated by ships. Voluntary speed reduction measures were implemented in 2000 to reduce the impact of wakes on bank erosion. This project targets the ongoing monitoring of vessel speeds in the river sections subject to these measures.

Read the backgrounder for this project.