Language selection


Terms of Reference

2022 Update to the application of a framework to assess the vulnerability of biological components to ship-source oil spills in the marine environment in the Pacific Region

Regional Science Response Process – Pacific Region

April 13, 2022
Virtual meeting

Chairperson: Jessica Finney


Under Canada’s World Class Tanker Safety System Initiative (WCTSS) a national framework was developed to identify marine biological organisms most vulnerable to ship-source oil (Thornborough et al. 2017) in the event of an oil spill. The Pacific regional application of this framework (Hannah et al. 2017) identified 27 highly vulnerable biological groups, with sea grasses, salt marsh grasses/succulents, sea otters, and baleen whales being most vulnerable. At present, the vulnerability framework is the best tool available for Government of Canada Environmental Incident Coordinators (EICs) to prioritize which species or species assemblages are most vulnerable to oil. EICs use the framework as the foundation to prioritize ‘resources at risk’ for ecological concerns and, consequently, to inform spill response planning processes, emergency response operations during spills and subsequently to inform mitigation options for species impacted. Additional information that impacts the scoring of species’ vulnerability to oil has become available since the publication of the original application of the Framework in 2017. Science staff, EICs, and other responders require the most up to date assessment of species' vulnerability to the worst case scenario of whole oil when responding to spills.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program (FFHPP), Ecosystem Management Branch, has requested that Science Branch provide the first update to the Pacific application of the oil vulnerability. Similar to the original application, this update will focus on the acute effects of direct contact with the worst case scenario of crude oil that contains the whole spectrum of oil from very heavy to very light fractions. The assessment, and advice arising from this Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) Science Response (SR), will be used to inform spill response planning processes, emergency response operations during spills in the Pacific Region, as well as mitigation options and other marine spatial planning initiatives.


The specific objectives of this review are to:

  1. Provide an update to the Pacific regional application of the oil vulnerability framework (e.g. vulnerability scores, proposed ranking changes), where new information is available.
  2. Provide advice on how to interpret the updated scores and rankings, including any important caveats and uncertainties.

Expected Publication

Expected Participation



Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

Date modified: