For the second year in a row, the majority of vessels are not complying with a voluntary slowdown aiming to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Cabot Strait, the conservation group Oceana Canada has found, calling Transport Canada to do all it can to protect right whales by making the slowdown mandatory.
Global Fishing Watch data as part of an ongoing multi-year analysis, Oceana Canada released Thursday one week of results of vessel speeds in the Cabot Strait voluntary slowdown zone, a key passage for right whales where they migrate into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in search of food.sing
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Findings showed that 64% of transits – 65 out of 101, involving 58 vessels – failed to comply with the 10-knot voluntary slowdown from April 28 to May 4, the first week the measure was in place in 2021. The highest observed speed was 17.4 knots.
This is worse than the results from the same week in 2020, the first year of the program, in which 55% of transits did not comply with the slowdown (67 out of 122, involving 56 vessels), the same data show.
Therefore, Oceana Canada is calling on Transport Canada to immediately make the Cabot Strait slowdown mandatory. The call is based on research findings revealing that compliance with slowdowns is significantly higher when a measure is mandatory.
Without making this slowdown mandatory, critically endangered whales, including mothers with calves, are being put at risk of being killed or injured by a vessel strike. We are calling on Transport Canada to put mandatory measures in place before April 28, before the whales arrive, in 2022 to best protect right whales from vessel strikes,
…said Kim Elmslie, campaign director for Oceana Canada.
With fewer than 360 North Atlantic right whales left worldwide, they are on the brink of extinction. There have been 21 known right whale deaths in Canadian waters between 2017 and 2020 and 34 globally.
The slower and smaller the vessel is, the higher the likelihood of a whale surviving a collision. One study found that slowing vessel speeds to 10 knots or less can reduce the lethality of a collision by 86%.