Today, Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport and Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard issued the following changes regarding concerns over right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Canada takes the protection, conservation, and recovery of endangered species very seriously. The recent deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are extremely concerning.
“There is evidence that the North Atlantic right whales have been increasingly present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent years. Our government has already taken action and will continue to ensure that measures are in place for the protection of this species and the safety of mariners using these waters.
“In our efforts to do everything possible to prevent further whale deaths, our government is today implementing a temporary mandatory slow down for vessels of 20 metres or more in length. Speed must be reduced to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island. This temporary measure is effective immediately.
“Transport Canada inspectors, with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services, will enforce this precautionary measure until the whales have migrated from the areas of concern. Failure to comply will result in an Administrative Monetary Penalty of up to $25,000.
“We continue to work with partners to better understand what may have caused the deaths of the North Atlantic right whales—to that end, several necropsies were carried on as many whales as possible.
“We have taken extensive action to ensure the protection of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including decisions around fisheries. To help prevent entanglements, the Snow Crab Fishing Area 12 in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was closed, and other fixed gear fisheries such as rock and toad crab fisheries have either been restricted to fish in shallow water or have had a delayed opening. Future fisheries decisions relating to the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence will take the presence of North Atlantic right whales into account.
“In addition to the reduced speed requirements being introduced today, monitoring and enforcement will continue with Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program and Fisheries and Oceans surveillance overflights to aid these new measures.
“Our government is already taking steps to protect Canada’s marine environment through a $1.5 billion investment in the Oceans Protection Plan. As part of the plan to protect marine mammals from the effects of shipping, including collisions and noise pollution, researchers are working to locate and track marine mammals in high vessel traffic areas and provide this information to mariners.
“We all have a responsibility to ensure that our marine resources are protected for future generations, and must take every step we can to help prevent whale deaths. As we take further concrete steps today, we continue to consider all options to help prevent future whale deaths.
“We look forward to the collaboration of all fishermen and mariners.”