Government of Canada’s actions to date on North Atlantic right whales

Backgrounder

To find more permanent solutions to the recent deaths of North Atlantic right whales in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Government of Canada will work with scientific experts, industry, environmental groups, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  • Monitoring North Atlantic right whales positions and taking temporary measures, when warranted, to limit whale-vessel interactions
  • Working with an expert working group to necropsy and sample several whales carcasses found in the past weeks, in order to identify the whales if possible and to better understand what caused these deaths.
  • Addressing threats to marine mammals in Canadian waters and enhancing capacity to respond to marine mammal incidents through the Government of Canada’s $1.5 billion investment in the Oceans Protection Plan.
  • Launching LetsTalkWhales.ca, an online public engagement that asks Canadians and stakeholders about proposed recovery measures to help three whale species in Canada: the North Atlantic right whale, the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga and the Southern Resident killer whale.  The three species were identified for review under the Oceans Protection Plan. The consultation comes after a science review of the effectiveness of recovery measures for these species. Input from the consultation will inform recommendations for enhanced recovery efforts.

On alert for whales

  • Issuing a notice to the commercial fishing industry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence asking fishermen to watch for whales and to report any sightings.
  • Broadcasting notices on the marine radio system to request shipping and fishing industries be on alert for whales.
  • In addition to the toll-free number and the Whale Alert website, individuals can use the established VHF channel 16 to report on observations of dead or injured whales and the Coast Guard will relay the information to the appropriate authorities.

Increased surveillance

  • Working with partners to patrol the coast to monitor and assess any reports of dead or distressed whale sightings.
  • Continuing surveillance flights to confirm positions of live right whales continues in the Gulf.

Slowing down ships

  • The Government of Canada implemented a temporary mandatory slow-down of vessels 20 meters or more to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island.  This represent a reduction of speed of approximately one third, assuming the average vessel speeds of 15 knots.
  • Vessels under 20 meters were asked to respect the speed reduction.

Fishery closures

  • Closing Snow Crab Fishing Area 12 in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (all fishing gear has been removed from the water).
  • Other fixed gear fisheries such as rock and toad crab fisheries have either been restricted to fish in shallow water (less than 20 fathoms) or have had a delayed opening.

Scientific research

  • Providing $56,000 towards the Whales Habitat and Listening Experiment (WHaLE) to support the development of a real-time whale alert system for mariners, which can inform measures to help reduce whale and ship collisions in Canadian waters.

The Government of Canada is committed to doing everything possible to prevent whale deaths. This might include further research, additional vessel avoidance measures, increased reporting, modifications to fishing gear, and changes to fishing practices. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our marine resources are protected for future generations.


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