Monday, 17 Feb 2020

Government of Canada adjusts measures to protect the North Atlantic right whales

OTTAWA: Protecting species at risk is a responsibility shared by all Canadians. The Government of Canada is seized with helping the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, and continues to maintain the enhanced measures it has implemented to protect this iconic species.

In response to the recent deaths of North Atlantic right whales, the Government of Canada took substantial measures. This included implementing an interim mandatory slowdown in the shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island on June 26, 2019, as well as the implementation of additional measures on July 8, 2019, such as increasing the areas for slowdowns, slowing down more ships, increasing the buffer zones in which speed restrictions apply, and increasing aerial surveillance. These measures were in addition to those implemented on April 28, 2019, which includes a large slowdown area throughout much of the Gulf.

Over the past month, Transport Canada's National Aerial Surveillance Program has greatly intensified surveillance with 240 flight hours over 44 missions, which is more than one a day. During this time, no North Atlantic right whales were spotted in the shipping lanes. As such, vessels are once again allowed to proceed at safe operational speeds in the shipping lanes. Enhanced surveillance will continue, and should a North Atlantic right whale be spotted in the shipping lanes, interim slowdown measures will once again be immediately implemented.

During the slowdown period, because the speed limit was the same throughout the Gulf area, vessels have been observed using more direct routes to transit through the Gulf instead of using the shipping lanes. This has resulted in more marine traffic coming closer to known whale locations. In order to encourage vessel traffic in areas where no North Atlantic right whales have been spotted, vessels will once again be able to maximize efficient routes to transit through the Gulf. With safe operational speed limits in the shipping lanes, marine vessels will be encouraged to take routes further away from the whales.

The marine traffic in the region has been highly compliant with these measures, however Transport Canada continues to examine all reported cases of non-compliance. The department has issued three Administrative Monetary Penalties to vessels this year which contravened the interim mandatory slowdown.

Transport Canada continues to work with other government departments and the marine transportation industry to ensure the safety of the North Atlantic right whale, and is prepared to adjust its measures as necessary.


''After a period of intense aerial surveillance and a mandatory slowdown, I can report that no North Atlantic right whales have been spotted in the shipping lanes - areas vital to our marine transportation industry. Although we are allowing vessels to transit at safe operating speeds in the designated shipping lanes, if even one North Atlantic right whale is spotted, we will immediately implement another slowdown.''

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

(PRN | 6 months ago)