Government of Canada outlines its 2021 measures to protect North Atlantic right whales

News release

February 18, 2021         Ottawa, ON         Government of Canada

The Government of Canada remains committed to protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale. With only approximately 366 remaining in the world, it is imperative that Canada continues taking strong action to help support the species’ recovery.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, along with the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced the 2021 measures to help protect North Atlantic right whales from interactions with fishing gear and vessels in Canadian waters.

To help prevent entanglements with fishing gear, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is building on last year’s successful measures by continuing to close fishing areas wherever and whenever North Atlantic right whales are present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy, and Roseway Basin Critical Habitat, but the Department will improve its efforts to determine if right whales remain present in closed area before deciding to extend a closure. This change will maintain world-class protection for the whales while also ensuring that harvesters are not prevented from accessing lucrative fishing grounds. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also establishing a new technical working group for harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials. This new collaboration will have regular, in-depth discussions about the right whale measures to ensure continued improvements.

To help prevent collisions with vessels, Transport Canada will be re-implementing its 2020 season measures, including a restriction on vessel speed throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to protect areas where whales are detected, and issuing fines to those who are not compliant with these measures. In addition to these measures, Transport Canada will introduce the following modifications this year:

  • the mandatory restricted area in and near the Shediac Valley will be refined by size, location, and  duration to better protect right whales when they are anticipated to be present in greatest numbers;
  • the speed limit exemption in waters of less than 20 fathoms will be expanded to all commercial fishing vessels.

These combined measures with the work already underway by the Government of Canada on extensive right whale monitoring and surveillance program with aerial and on-the-water vessel surveillance, underwater stationary and mobile hydrophones, will further protect our marine environment and the navigational safety of all mariners.

The Government of Canada, working closely with its partners and stakeholders, is using the best available data and science to better protect this iconic species in Canadian waters.

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Government of Canada’s 2021 measures to protect North Atlantic right whales (Transcript)


“In 2020, we saw no North Atlantic right whale deaths or entanglements in Canadian waters, which is why we are building on those measures to ensure this trend continues. None of this is possible without the collaboration and partnership of fish harvesters across Atlantic Canada and Quebec, who have helped develop these measures with DFO year after year in order to protect these whales. Last season is proof that by working together, we can effectively protect North Atlantic right whales while also continuing to put high quality, sustainable seafood on dinner plates in Canada and around the world.”

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

“Our government remains fully committed to protecting the marine environment while ensuring navigational safety. For the fifth consecutive year, we are implementing vessel traffic management measures for the 2021 season which incorporate evidence-based research and innovative tools to safeguard the North Atlantic right whales. Working together with vessel operators and the maritime industry, we will continue to support the recovery of this iconic species for generations to come.

The Honourable Omar Alghabra    
Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • The 2021 fishing measures will take effect in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as soon as the crab fisheries open. Measures will continue to be applied in fall and winter fisheries if whales are detected in areas where fixed-gear fisheries are operating.

  • The vessel traffic management measures will be in effect from April 28 to November 15, 2021.

  • Transport Canada issued four penalties last year for non-compliance with the mandatory speed restriction. Vessel owners have 30 days to pay the penalty or to ask the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada to review the facts of the violation or the amount of the penalty.

  • Budget 2018 included a $167.4 million Whales Initiative to help protect and support the recovery of 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.

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

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Allison St-Jean
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada

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