Ships in Canada Must Slow Down to Prevent Whale Deaths

The Canadian government has implemented a temporary mandatory slow down for vessels of 20 meters or more in length in an effort to prevent further whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

As informed, ships are required to reduce speed to a maximum of 10 knots when traveling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island.

“The recent deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are extremely concerning… Our government has already taken action and will continue to ensure that measures are in place for the protection of this species and the safety of mariners using these waters,” a statement issued by Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, says.

“Transport Canada inspectors, with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services, will enforce this precautionary measure until the whales have migrated from the areas of concern. Failure to comply will result in an Administrative Monetary Penalty of up to CAD 25,000,” the statement further says.

The government also said it continues to work with partners to better understand the cause of the deaths of whales, with several necropsies having been carried on as many whales as possible.

“Our government is already taking steps to protect Canada’s marine environment through a CAD 1.5 billion investment in the Oceans Protection Plan. As part of the plan to protect marine mammals from the effects of shipping, including collisions and noise pollution, researchers are working to locate and track marine mammals in high vessel traffic areas and provide this information to mariners,” the Government of Canada noted.

Separately, in response to the government’s announcement of new measures to protect North Atlantic right whales, David Miller, WWF-Canada President and CEO, said: “WWF-Canada is pleased that the Government of Canada has taken measures to slow ships in areas where endangered North Atlantic right whales are known to frequent. It’s an important step. But temporary measures such as these are not enough to reverse the decline of these whales.”

“We need to ensure permanent, meaningful protections for the vital habitat of North Atlantic right whales and other vulnerable marine wildlife. The government is planning to create a marine protected area (MPA) around the Laurentian Channel, where North Atlantic right whales are known to frequent. But proposed regulations will still allow oil and gas drilling and seismic blasts in 80 per cent of the MPA. These activities threaten whales and other wildlife. An oil spill would be even more devastating,” Miller added.

“We also need to understand why ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement have contributed to the sharp spike in whales deaths this year, with at least 12 having perished from a population estimated to number only about 500. For example, lack of sufficient food or poisoning from ingesting toxic substances in the ocean risk leaving the whales diminished, disoriented and less able to avoid dangerous ships and harmful fishing gear. We need a better understanding to take more appropriate measures based on the best available science,” Miller concluded.

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