Mr. Speaker, in fact, our government is taking meaningful action on abandoned and wrecked vessels. As part of the $1.5 billion oceans protection plan, we are investing in a comprehensive strategy that will address problem vessels from multiple angles. A component of the strategy is already under way with the launch on May 31, 2017 of a national abandoned boats program, led by Transport Canada. This program will facilitate the removal of existing legacy, smaller, high-priority abandoned boats that are plaguing our coasts, educate boat owners about their responsibilities, and support research into improving recycling options for vessels.
In addition, on September 7, 2017, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced the launch of a complementary abandoned and wrecked vessels removal program. This separate initiative will provide funds to assist in the removal of priority vessels that are currently abandoned in Department of Fisheries and Oceans-owned small craft harbours. This measure will benefit local commercial fishing industries and the broader interests of affected coastal communities.
Our strategy goes beyond addressing existing problem vessels. Very importantly, our long-term strategy is designed to take the cost burden off of taxpayers and implement vessel owner-financed programs to pay for the cleanup of vessels. Shifting the cost burden from taxpayers also means that we need to hold vessel owners accountable through law. It is unacceptable that owners can walk away from their vessels, leaving these vessels to deteriorate in our waters without penalty.
Our current laws do not allow us to intervene early enough and often enough. Vessels reach the point of posing serious risks to our environment and economy, resulting in considerable cleanup costs. The need for a prohibition on vessel abandonment has come up repeatedly in our consultations with Canadians. Such legislation has proven to be successful in reducing the problem in other jurisdictions, and we are following through with this best practice in Canada by meeting our commitment to introduce legislation in 2017.
We will continue to work with all levels of government, partners, indigenous groups, and coastal communities to support the cleanup and prevention of abandoned and wrecked vessels. As the member mentioned, we have already made considerable progress, and it will continue.