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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 2021-2026

Participate in sustainable navigation forums

The objective of this project is to maintain and increase the participation of the Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC)External link in forums dealing with sustainable navigation issues. Specifically, the NCC will participate in collaborative discussions on opportunities to harmonize regulations, policies, programs and practices for sustainable navigation. In addition, climate change and its impact on sustainable navigation will be added to the issues addressed in the Sustainable Navigation Strategy.

Continue the activities of the Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC)

The purpose of the Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC)External link is to provide a permanent forum for stakeholders to work together to sustainably manage navigation activities on the St. Lawrence River, whether it be commercial navigation (shipping, cruise ships, international cruises) or recreational navigation (boating). Participants in NCC activities include stakeholders from Canadian and Quebec government departments, environmental organizations, and marine and boating sector representatives. In consultation, SCC members have developed a sustainable navigation strategy and reference document outlining the parameters for the management of commercial and recreational navigation and dockside vessel operations that integrate economic, environmental and social sustainability objectives. Sustainable navigation aims to ensure adequate protection of ecosystems, quality of life, human health and safety, while allowing for the development of navigation.

The objective of this project is to maintain and increase the effectiveness and quality of cooperation between stakeholders affected by sustainable navigation issues on the St. Lawrence.

Establish a common framework for assessing the cumulative effects of marine activities on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers

Better management of the cumulative impacts and risks associated with marine activities on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers requires greater knowledge of these issues and better practices to prevent or mitigate their impacts. The project aims to develop and apply a common framework for assessing the cumulative effects of marine activities on the St. Lawrence. Collaboration between departments, agencies, Aboriginal communities and other stakeholders is essential to the success of the project objectives. The project will facilitate the pooling of data held by individual organizations, sharing of expertise, joint development of the methodology and its application to the case of the St. Lawrence, and the sharing of the results obtained.

Through the project, it will also be possible to acquire new knowledge on the potential cumulative effects of marine activities on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers (available in French only)External link, thus promoting consistency in mitigation strategies. It will make it possible to enrich and improve the Sustainable Navigation Strategy External linkdeveloped by the Navigation Coordination Committee.

Voluntary speed reduction measure for commercial vessels

Erosion is a phenomenon that affects all waterways. There are many causes of erosion, one of which is the action of waves generated by commercial and recreational vessels against shores and banks. The magnitude of wave action varies with the size of the vessel, the shape of its hull, its depth in the water, its speed and the characteristics of the channel in which it is travelling.

In order to mitigate the relative effect of the wake generated by commercial vessels on erosion, a voluntary speed reduction measure was introduced in 2000. Over a distance of about 25 km in the Sorel-Varennes sector, this measure strongly encourages ship pilots not to exceed a speed of 10 knots (18.5 km/h) upstream and 14 knots (25.9 km/h) downstream. This corresponds to a speed of 12 knots (22.2 km/h) relative to the moving water mass. The speed was established on the basis of certain safety aspects, including vessel maneuverability. This project will continue to monitor vessel speeds in areas where this measure is in effect.

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 River? The Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC) is proposing ways to move the thinking forward within the framework of the Sustainable Navigation Strategy, which reflects a common will to tackle existing or emerging problems.

There are many challenges to be met in terms of concerted action on navigation on the St. Lawrence and its sustainable development. Indeed, navigation activities, both commercial and recreational, must not negatively affect the integrity of ecosystems. In this context, the establishment of structures that promote cooperation among stakeholders, such as the NCC, and the publication of awareness tools for users, are avenues to be favoured.

Through active participation in consultation forums, this committee can transmit a vision of the St. Lawrence as a waterway to be preserved, by proposing guidelines for sustainable navigation activities. The adoption of this vision by decision-makers and stakeholders will promote its concrete implementation. Through this project, the SCC aims to continue its regular exchanges with the community and to present its work to a wider audience, particularly at conferences.

Reconcile interests to promote sustainable navigation

The Navigation Coordination Committee (NCC) was created in 1998. It is co-chaired by representatives of Transport Canada and the Ministère des Transports du Québec. The NCC brings together some 20 organizations from the marine industry, recreational boating, socio-environmental groups and the federal and provincial governments. Their common goal is to harmonize commercial and recreational boating practices with ecosystem protection based on the principles of sustainable development.

 Consequently, it is expected to reconcile the varied and sometimes divergent interests of the groups represented, notably with the aim of implementing the 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 provide a better understanding and to 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: An Echo of the Past, a Way of 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.