Canada continues strong measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales 

News release

March 31, 2023                        

Ottawa, Ontario - Maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and protecting biodiversity are top priorities for the Government of Canada. That is why the government is committed to protecting endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale, and the marine environment in which they live. Our efforts to protect this iconic species also help ensure Canadian fisheries are sustainable for Indigenous Peoples, the fishing industry and coastal communities. In 2023 and into the future, Canada will apply its world-class and adaptive management measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale from fishing gear entanglements and vessel collisions, which threaten the recovery of the species.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Joyce Murray, and the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced the fishery and vessel management measures for the 2023 season.

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will prioritize measures designed to prevent entanglement, in particular the adaptive closure protocols. These include seasonal and dynamic area closures for non-tended fixed gear, trap and pot fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy, Roseway basin, and other areas, where and when right whales are visually or acoustically detected.
  • DFO will address lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear in areas affected by Hurricane Fiona, including right whale hot spots in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as support marine mammal responders and robust whale surveillance.
  • DFO will apply gear marking requirements, lost gear reporting requirements and marine mammal disturbance reporting requirements to further inform measures to protect whales.
  • Transport Canada’s (TC) vessel traffic management measures will continue to include speed restrictions for all vessels over 13 metres throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to protect whales where they are detected. This year, speed management restrictions begin as of April 19.

Canada is also committed to becoming a world-leader on whalesafe fishing gear practices. This year, DFO will develop a long-term strategy for testing and implementing whalesafe fishing gear in Canadian fisheries. This strategy, to be developed in consultation with Indigenous partners, fish harvesters, non-government organizations and academic experts, will guide the development and use of on-demand gear and low breaking strength gear in fisheries across Canada to prevent and reduce entanglements. In the short term, DFO will work with partners to test whalesafe fishing gear in diverse fishing conditions.

Canada’s whale protection measures are adaptive and will evolve based on science and feedback from partners and stakeholders. This approach is showing positive results, and with the support of our partners, we can ensure that North Atlantic right whales have the best chance to recover.


"We must act quickly to protect the threatened North Atlantic right whale. With targeted fishing area closures, increased monitoring, and our commitment to the long-term adoption of whalesafe gear in our fisheries, Canada is leading the way with measures that give this endangered species the best chance at survival. Canadian harvesters and our other partners are working especially hard to protect this iconic species while making sure Canadian fisheries can meet the growing demand for high-quality and sustainably sourced seafood."

The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Through the implementation of traffic management measures on over 72,000 square kilometres in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, our Government is committed to safeguarding the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters. The measures announced today and the ongoing detection efforts, with acoustic and aerial technologies, also support the conservation of marine life and the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • With recent reports that there are roughly 340 left in the world, the Government of Canada is committed to the protection and conservation of this species while supporting its recovery. 

  • Canada’s right whale protection measures are based on the latest data, science, technological advancements, and feedback from stakeholders. 

  • North Atlantic right whale surveillance happens during the season when they are more present in Canadian waters. In 2023, up to nine aircraft may be used to support fishing and vessel traffic management measures, and right whale research. Additionally, four Slocum underwater gliders, and nine Viking Buoys, will provide acoustic detections of the whales in near real-time.

  • Aircraft from Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program monitor designated shipping zones and certain areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

  • Fishery management measures will come into effect upon the opening of the snow crab fishery in Crab Fishing Area 12 (as early as April 1). 

  • Vessel traffic management measures will be in effect from April 19 to November 15, 2023. Depending on the severity of a violation, vessel owners could face fines of up to a maximum of $250,000. 

Associated links


Matthew Dillon                          
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Nadine Ramadan 
Press Secretary and Communications Advisor 
Office of the Honourable Omar Alghabra 
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

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