Government of Canada unveils 2020 North Atlantic right whales protection measures

News release

February 27, 2020          Ottawa          Government of Canada

The endangered North Atlantic right whale is an iconic marine mammal, but with roughly 400 left in the world, the Government of Canada is doing its part to ensure its protection, conservation, and recovery.

Over the past several years, Canada has put in place comprehensive measures to help protect this species from interactions with fishing gear and vessels. Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, along with the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, announced the  enhanced 2020 measures that will help reduce the risks to North Atlantic right whales during the 2020 season from April to November.

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.

Minister 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. 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.

North Atlantic right whales are unpredictable in Canadian waters. We need to continue using a wide-variety of tools and adapt quickly to their changing behaviour. Effectively protecting and recovering the North Atlantic right whale requires a long-term approach with active collaboration of multiple partners and stakeholders. Consultation with the science community, fishing and marine industries, Indigenous peoples, and non-governmental environmental organizations has been necessary and invaluable. Their experience and expertise has informed the development of the Government’s measures.


“The North Atlantic right whale is endangered, but together we are working to change that. Since 2017, our government has introduced new measures to protect this species, and we are proud of the progress we have made in implementing them. 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.”

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Our Government remains steadfast in our commitment to protect the marine environment, and to reduce the risks to navigational safety. 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.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • Budget 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. This national strategy is creating a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines and clean water for generations to come. The strategy is being developed in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.

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Jane Deeks
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Amy Butcher
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Media Relations
Transport Canada

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