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Coastal Environmental Baseline Program

Aerial view of a west coast fjord with forest on each coast, a boat in motion with its wake trailing behind.

Belcarra, British Columbia. Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

We established the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program (Baseline Program) in 2017, as one of the initiatives under the Protecting the Marine Environment pillar of the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. We contribute to coastal and waterway protection by providing funding for scientific activities that help us learn more about Canada’s coastal ecosystems.

Coastal ecosystems provide important habitat for species and essential ecosystem services both to local communities and the rest of Canada. These ecosystems are facing strong pressures, such as climate change, marine traffic and development. The more we know about these ecosystems, the better we can plan for and support coastal management.


The Baseline Program supports the collection of ecological data to describe the current state (baseline) of key coastal areas across Canada.

The data is collected by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists and a growing number of partners, including First Nations, Inuit, environmental non-government organizations, fisheries associations, academia and local governments.

The Baseline Program takes a collaborative approach to delivery through partner engagement and co-development of priorities for data collection.


Data collection projects are currently underway at 6 key coastal sites:

  1. Placentia Bay, NL
  2. Port of Saint John, NB
  3. Lower St Lawrence Estuary, QC
  4. Iqaluit, NU
  5. Port of Vancouver, BC
  6. Port of Prince Rupert, BC

Each project considers a full breadth of physical and biological characteristics to better understand the current state of each coastal ecosystem.

The Coastal Environmental Baseline Program infographic describes key facts about the program. The infographic is divided into 4 sections, each describing a different element or statistic of the program. National considerations are the principles that govern the program, and are listed as follows: •	address community concerns •	coverage along all 3 ocean coasts •	include local communities in regional program design and implementation •	data meet national and international standards and are publicly accessible. Current sites and number of projects at each site are represented by a map of Canada with the location of each site pinned, along with the name and number of projects. •	Port of Prince Rupert, located on the North Coast of British Columbia, has 9 projects •	Port of Vancouver, located on the south coast of British Columbia, has 2 projects •	Iqaluit, located in Nunavut in the northeast, has 12 projects •	Lower St. Lawrence Estuary, located in southeastern Quebec, has 10 projects •	Port of Saint John, located on the east coast in southern New Brunswick, has 12 projects •	Placentia Bay, located on the far east coast in Newfoundland, has 14 projects. National target ecosystem components are represented by illustrated icons: •	physical/oceanographic o	physical (3 wavy, horizontal lines on top of one another) o	biogeochemical (3 pentagons fused together with arrows around them in a circular pattern) o	sediment quality (a horizontal rectangle with lines running through it varying distances apart) o	substrate (a 3-dimensional shape with multiple irregular sides) •	biological o	algae (a branching, plant-like structure that resembles coral) o	emergents (seaweed) o	invertebrates (snail) o	fish (fish) o	mammals (whale) •	partner organizations are represented by a circular diagram made up of different colours to represent types of partner organizations, with a legend underneath o	yellow: academic institutions o	light blue: non-government organizations o	dark green: First Nations organizations o	grey: Inuit organizations o	dark blue: provincial/territorial government and port authorities o	black: fisheries organizations o	light green: research centres.

Infographic: Key facts about the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program.

Projects involve a variety of activities, including:

  • field work
  • performing laboratory analyses
  • supporting technical training
  • contributing to student stipends
  • supporting local employment
  • purchasing scientific equipment
  • outreach and engagement activities

Data collected through the Baseline Program will be openly available and compatible with international standards.

Two technicians sitting facing one another on a boat, working on a sampling apparatus, with the water and coastline in the background.

Two technicians taking water samples in the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick. Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


As of 2021, the Baseline Program has supported 60 projects with 40 different partners throughout Canada, providing approximately $4.6 million in funding per year across all partner-led projects.

Find out more about our current baseline projects:

For more information, visit Introduction to the Baseline Program.

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