By Jite Eriabie
The Canadian government has lifted the temporary mandatory slowdown for commercial vessels operating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The move comes in an effort “to ensure ships can maintain manoeuverability in winter conditions and for the safety of those operating in Canadian waters.”
Transport Canada explained in a statement that there have been no sightings of North Atlantic right whales in the area of the slowdown in recent weeks.
On August 11, 2017, Transport Canada implemented a speed restriction for vessels of 20 meters or more in length to a maximum of 10 knots in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence. The temporary measure was in response to an increased number of right whales observed in the area.
Since August, a total of 13 penalties for alleged non-compliance with the slowdown has been issued.
“Our government took forceful action in response to the whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We will continue to monitor the situation and will impose the speed restriction again if the whales migrate back to the area,” Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, commented.
Commenting on the lifting speed restrictions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bruce Burrows, President to the Canadian Chamber of Marine Commerce, said: “We’re pleased to see the speed restrictions lifted as our ship operator members continue winter deliveries of vital products to Canadian companies and northern communities.”
Chamber of Marine Commerce said its ship operator members have been following speed restrictions, closely working with the government to minimize the risk of collisions with North Atlantic Right Whales. Ship operators are also part of the data collection process, reporting whale sightings to government officials as part of efforts to protect this endangered species.
“From our perspective, more data is needed on where the whales are and how they move around to help determine if a specific shipping lane could be established that would avoid contact with whales and allow ships to move without speed restrictions. The shipping industry is collaborating with government and the scientific community to explore what technology could be used to address this issue,” Burrows noted.
At an October 4 meeting, an informal committee was formed to collaborate with industry, government, and academic scientists on developing measures to protect the North Atlantic right whales from ship-related impacts, namely collisions.
From this committee, a small working group is developing collaborative arrangements and a list of feasible technical options to protect whales in the 2018 season. This work is being done over the early part of the winter to enable the government to develop a collaborative approach to protect the right whales if they return to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the spring, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.
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