Canada lifts speed restriction in Gulf of St. Lawrence

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

(OTTAWA) — The government of Canada is committed to protecting marine mammals and the marine environment, and enhancing the safety of mariners, fishers, recreational boaters and all users of Canada's oceans and waterways.

To ensure ships can maintain maneuverability in winter conditions and for the safety of those operating in Canadian waters, Marc Garneau, minister of transport, has announced that the temporary mandatory slowdown for vessels has been lifted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There have been no sightings of North Atlantic right whales in the area of the slowdown in recent weeks. We thank the many vessel operators and captains who complied with this mandatory slowdown.

On Aug. 11, 2017, Transport Canada implemented a speed restriction for vessels 20 meters (65 feet) or more to a maximum of 10 knots in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence. This temporary measure was in response to an increased number of right whales observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We are concerned about the unprecedented 12 right whale deaths during the summer of 2017, some of which were determined to be as a result of ship strikes. Transport Canada did not hesitate to take action and issue fines to ship operators who allegedly violated the speed restriction. We continue to investigate all reported cases of noncompliance while the speed restriction was in effect.

A world-leading marine system requires strong environmental protection for Canada’s coastal habitats, ecosystems and marine species, including whales. The government of Canada continues to work with partners, scientific experts, industry, environmental groups, and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine a comprehensive approach to ensure these marine mammals are protected.

The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. Through this plan, the Government of Canada is creating a marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coasts and waterways for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.

Since Aug. 11, 2017, Transport Canada has issued 13 penalties for alleged noncompliance of the temporary mandatory slowdown.

Several cases are under review by Transport Canada marine safety and security inspectors. Vessel owners have 30 days to pay the penalty or to ask the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada to review the facts of the violation or the amount of the penalty.

In 2017, 12 North Atlantic right whales died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The global population is approximately 450.

By Professional Mariner Staff