Canada fines six ships for speeding in whale zone

The following is text of a news release from Transport Canada:

(OTTAWA) — Endangered whales such as the North Atlantic right whale deserve to live in a safe environment in Canadian waters. That is why the government of Canada has introduced several measures to address the risks they face from both marine and fishing activity.

On Monday, Transport Canada issued six fines for non-compliance of the temporary mandatory slowdown. The vessels' owners have 30 days to pay their penalty or to ask the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada to review the facts of their individual violations or the amounts of their penalties.

Vessels being fined:

• A monetary penalty of $12,000 was issued to the vessel MSC Diego;
• Monetary penalties of $6,000 were issued to each of the vessels Oslo Bulk, Isola Celeste and Princess Ashita; and
• Monetary penalties of $6,000 and $12,000 were issued to CCGS Cape Edensaw and CCGS Cap d'Espoir, respectively.

While the shipping industry has been compliant in respecting these measures, there are still some exceptions, and Transport Canada continues to examine all reported cases of non-compliance.

In response to the recent deaths of North Atlantic right whales, the government of Canada took substantial actions. This included implementing a temporary mandatory slowdown in the shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island on June 26, as well as the implementation of additional measures on July 8, 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, which include a large slowdown area throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

During the slowdown period, because the speed limit was the same throughout the Gulf area, data shows that vessels were 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, as of August 2, vessels were once again encouraged to maximize efficient routes to transit through the Gulf, moving at safe operational speed limits through the designated shipping lanes.

Transport Canada also augmented its whale monitoring activity with its National Aerial Surveillance Program. Information from increased surveillance is being analyzed to determine best practices and inform any additional measures that may be required to protect whales this season.

"Vessels must transit in a way that does not harm the endangered North Atlantic right whale population. When they exceed the set speed limits, we won't hesitate to issue fines. The government of Canada remains committed to working with the marine shipping industry, science experts, and our American partners to monitor and protect the North Atlantic right whale," Marc Garneau, minister of transport.

By Professional Mariner Staff