Whale Deaths Cause Vessels to Slow Down in Canada

Image courtesy: japan times.co.jp (AP Photo/New England Aquarium)

From Friday, August 11th, in a move to protect endangered whales, vessels of 20 metres or more will now be required to slow to 10 knots while travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island.

The move comes after there were reports of 10 whales that died in this region since early June. Some of these deaths were caused by the endangered mammals colliding with ships.

According to the National Post, “The federal government is ordering large vessels to slow down in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as it tries to protect right whales who frequent the waters.”

To announce this, the Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Marc Garneau went to Pointe-du-Chene, N.B., on Friday. “These are reasonable measures to accomplish something very important,” Garneau said. “I think that Canadians and the shipping industry and the fishing industry recognize that this is something most unusual and we need to take measures.”

Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are the agencies that will enforce the move. They further reiterated that ships that do not comply with the speed limit will be subject to a financial penalty of up to approximately USD 19,600. They expect smaller ships to voluntarily comply with the move as it is only expected to last until the whales migrate to another area.

The Ottawa-based Chamber of Marine Commerce predicted that there could be up to seven-hour delays due to the speed restrictions for some voyages, but president Bruce Burrows said industry stakeholders are committed to protecting marine life. “These recent whale deaths are deeply troubling for our members too,” Burrows said in a statement. “It’s critical that industry and government continue to work closely together to develop solutions based on strong science that both protect marine wildlife and minimize economic impacts.”

It is estimated there are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales alive. The World Wildlife Fund Canada called the speed restriction a “good start,” but said permanent steps to protect the whales’ habitat are required.