Canada restricts speed of large vessels to protect right whales

Whale Protection Map

(OTTAWA) — The Canadian government is ordering a temporary mandatory slowdown for vessels of 20 meters (65 feet) or more in length to protect the population of endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Radio Canada International reported.

The announcement comes after the deaths of 10 of the whales in the gulf since early June. Two others have washed up dead in the Massachusetts area in recent weeks. Preliminary necropsy reports on some of the gulf deaths suggest ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement are possible causes.

Speed must be reduced to a maximum of 10 knots in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island. The temporary measure is effective immediately.

Transport Canada inspectors, with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services, will enforce the measure until the whales have migrated from the areas of concern. Failure to comply will result in a penalty of up to $25,000.

The Shipping Federation of Canada (SFC) said while it supports the government’s efforts to protect the endangered whale population, it wants to make sure the measures do not unduly hurt the industry.

“In navigation time is of the essence,” said Sonia Simard, the SFC’s director of legislative and environmental affairs. “When you look at adding time to a voyage, that means additional costs for shipowners and on the other hand it could have an impact on the overall efficiency of the shipping corridors and the competitiveness of Canada versus other ports.”

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By Professional Mariner Staff