As part of its concrete efforts to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale over the last years, the Government of Canada now announced enhanced 2020 measures that will help reduce the risks to these marine mammals during the 2020 season from April to November.
Estimates show that roughly 400 North Atlantic right whales are left in the world.
The enhanced measures complete previous work over the past several years, to help protect this species from interactions with fishing gear and vessels. Specifically:
-To help prevent entanglements with fishing gear, Fisheries and Oceans Canada:
- will implement new season-long fishing closures in areas where whales are aggregating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
- expand temporary fishing closure areas into the Bay of Fundy;
- impose new gear marking requirements; and,
- work with the fishing industry on implementing other gear modifications to be phased in starting in 2021.
This year, the Department is also authorizing ropeless fishing gear trials in closed areas.
-To help prevent whale collisions with vessels, Transport Canada will:
- re-implement the mandatory speed limit to 10 knots in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence; and,
- continue to allow vessels to travel at safe operational speeds in parts of the shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island when no North Atlantic right whales are detected in the area.
New measures also include two seasonal management areas:
- restricted area in the Shediac Valley where vessels will be required to avoid the area or reduce their speed to 8 knots; and
- a trial voluntary speed limit of 10 knots for the Cabot Strait for parts of the season.
All measures apply to vessels longer than 13 metres.
The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Bernadette Jordan, also announced that a contract is now in place with a third party icebreaker to open local harbours for spring fishing activities in northern New Brunswick.
Namely, G X Technology Canada was awarded a contract worth $596,736 following a tendering process to provide icebreaking services in the Acadian Peninsula, Baie des Chaleurs and Northumberland Strait.
This will ensure the snow crab fishery in the region can start as early as possible, when safe to do so, before the whales’ arrival in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
These new measures build on that work, and are informed by the latest research and technology. We recognize that they are only possible because of the hard work and cooperation of our fish harvesters who have been changing their operations to support our shared goal of protecting this beautiful animal for generations to come.”
…noted Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
For the past several years, the Government of Canada has been working with Canadians and Indigenous peoples through the Oceans Protection Plan to protect our coasts and waterways, while growing the economy. The North Atlantic right whale can directly benefit from our enhanced protection measures, and we are appreciative of all industries’ active participation in their development and with their compliance.”
…stated Marc Garneau. Minister of Transport.
The budget of 2018 included a $167.4 million Whales Initiative to help protect and recover endangered whale species in Canada, notably the North Atlantic right whale, the Southern Resident killer whale, and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga.
Under this fund, $1 million per year in ongoing funding, and an additional $4.5 million over four years, were committed to further enhance the Marine Mammal Response Program, which responds to marine mammals in distress, including disentanglement of North Atlantic right whales.
The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. The strategy is developed in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.