In order to protect whales, Canada has established speed restrictions in certain zones in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. When a ship violates the restriction, the Government of Canada takes swift action. As a result, Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced that the department is fining a vessel for alleged non-compliance of a temporary mandatory speed restriction. The vessel will be issued a $6000 fine.
On July 8, 2019, Transport Canada applied further precautionary measures to those already in effect since April 28, to mitigate the risks whales face from vessel activity. These included expanding the current slowdown zone further east where vessels are required to travel at 10 knots throughout the season, and a new slowdown shipping lane where vessels are required to slow down to 10 knots when a North Atlantic right whale is spotted in the area.
Mandatory speed restrictions were also expanded to include any vessel over 13 metres long. Previously the restriction applied to vessels 20 metres and more.
What is more, Transport Canada enhanced its whale monitoring activity by its National Aerial Surveillance Program and increased surveillance to two flights per day. Information from increased surveillance will be analyzed to conclude best practices and inform any additional measure that may be necessary to protect whales this season.
To ensure speed restriction compliance, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres, monitor marine traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Vessels not in compliance will be issued a fine ranging from $6000 to $25,000, depending on the importance of the infraction and repeated offences. Any ship owner charged and issued a fine has 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.
Commenting on the fine, Marc Garneau, said that:
The recent deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are extremely concerning. Our government is determined to take all action necessary to promote the safe coexistence of marine mammals and ship traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We continue to work with the maritime industry, science experts, and our United States partners to monitor the situation and address any risks faced by the North Atlantic right whale