Evaluation of Cumulative Effects Assessment Methodologies for Marine Shipping

Project Details

Canada; W 75° 41′ 53”; N 45° 24′ 40”
Transport Canada (Environmental Programs)
2018 – 2019
Team Member(s):
Darcy Pickard, Andrew Thompson, Erica Olson, Caitlin Semmens, Patricia de la Cueva Bueno
Practice Area(s):
Cumulative Effects Assessment
Services Employed:
Facilitation & Engagement; Science Communication; Decision-Support Systems; Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis

The Problem We Aimed to Solve

As part of the federal government’s $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan (2016), ESSA Technologies Ltd. was contracted by Transport Canada to identify, review, and assess potential Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) methodologies pertaining to current and potential marine vessel activity in Canadian waters. Transport Canada’s Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping initiative is a collaborative process involving Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders, and coastal communities in six pilot sites covering all three of Canada’s coasts.

The work undertaken for this project involved the selection of candidate valued components for each site, and the identification of linkages between stressors and valued components (i.e., pathways of effects). As part of the screening phase, we reviewed over 200 methodological papers, review papers, assessment frameworks, and key background documents. We identified three groups of CEA methodologies: spatial, analytical, and modeling methods. Within each category, we organized methods depending on the part of the system they focus on; stressors, VCs, or pathways.

How We Helped

To compare the CEA methodologies, we qualitatively ranked the methods based on three evaluation criteria: relevance, rigour, and feasibility. Relevance refers to the general usefulness of the method, such as the relevant spatial scale, or the ability to incorporate Indigenous knowledge. Rigour provides an overall evaluation of the strength of the method in terms of how well established and justified the method is and the quality of their inputs and outputs. Feasibility provides an estimation of how easy it would be to implement the method, such as the skills and resources required or the complexity of the method. We subsequently described how methods could be applied to the Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping initiative to provide clear guidance to Transport Canada moving forward. Our report identified a preferred methodology for the overall cumulative effects assessment.

Our Project’s Impacts

ESSA provided insights for Transport Canada to consider as they advance their Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping initiative, part of the Oceans Protection Plan. Key insights include a) assessing cumulative effects in the marine shipping sector will require a combination of assessment methods and b) marine shipping activities are relevant nationally, whereas VCs and impact pathways differ by region and may be scale-dependent. The resultant framework and CEA guiding principles were presented at a Transport Canada-led technical workshop (Feb 2019) and has already been utilized in regional assessments at smaller geographical scales. We expect our framework to inform phases three and four of the initiative. ESSA’s summary report for this project is referenced frequently by Transport Canada and can be found below.