Ocean program – Pollutants

The goal of the pollution remediation technology theme is to support the development of technology to understand, detect, track and remove pollutants from the ocean and inland waterways.

Pollution remediation research may include projects aiming to:

  • track and extract micro and nanoplastics
  • reduce the amount and intensity of underwater noise from marine vehicles
  • understand and mitigate the environmental impact of oil spills
  • decrease buildup on ship hulls (biofouling)


Plastic bottles underwater

In response to the global ocean plastic crisis, the Government of Canada is playing a leading role in addressing plastic waste and pollution. Spearheading the Ocean Plastics Charter, Canada is committed to stopping plastic waste and the flow of plastics into the environment.

Research to help find effective methods for removing the vast amount of plastic already in the ocean is essential. Efforts are already being made to remove large pieces of plastic from the ocean. However, plastic degrades into ever-smaller sizes, leaving behind micro and nanoplastics, which are harder to detect, track and extract.

The NRC's Ocean program supports collaborative research and the development of technologies to better understand the behaviour and fate of micro and nanoplastic particles in waterways, and how they affect marine life. Projects will also include researching options for extracting these plastics for use in other industrial processes, like developing feedstocks.


A whale's tail and a boat, on the ocean

The survival of marine animals is largely related to their ability to hear. Yet, research shows that the increase in ship traffic since 1950 has also significantly increased the noise intensity in ocean waters. As marine mammals are exposed to this intense noise, it can compromise their mating calls, ability to prey, and response to predators.

Research also shows elevated levels of cortisol in marine mammals due to chronic stress induced by louder oceans. The Ocean program is supporting research projects to improve the energy efficiency of ships, thereby reducing noise, as well as improving asset sensing capabilities and automatic response.

Oil spills

An oil spill

Oil spills can have obvious and significant negative consequences for aquatic ecosystems. Research is needed to better understand and mitigate the environmental impact of spilled crude oil. Supporting research to improve cleanup options, particularly in high-risk and poorly understood areas, such as Arctic waters, the deep ocean and shores or inland rivers and wetlands will be considered under the pollution remediation technology theme.


Boat hull covered with algae

When plants, small animals and other organisms accumulate on a ship's hull (called biofouling), it increases the ship's drag, and can cause a significant increase in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Biofouling can also affect other sectors in the marine environment; for example, increasing the production costs of aquaculture, or damaging various types of underwater instrumentation. Support for research into mitigating the impacts of biofouling may be considered through the pollution remediation technology theme.

Contact us

If you are interested in collaborating with us, making investments in this area, or if you have any questions, please contact:

Thomas Puestow
Program Director, Ocean program (acting)
Telephone: 613-299-3257
Email: OceanProgram-ProgrammeOceans@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

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