SHÉDIAC, NB, Aug. 11, 2017 /CNW/ - Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport and the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard issued the following statement:
"Canada takes the protection, conservation, and recovery of endangered species very seriously. The recent deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are extremely concerning.
"There is evidence that the North Atlantic right whales have been increasingly present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent years. Our government has already taken action and will continue to ensure that measures are in place for the protection of this species and the safety of mariners using these waters.
"In our efforts to do everything possible to prevent further whale deaths, our government is today implementing a temporary mandatory slow down for vessels of 20 metres or more in length. Speed must be reduced 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 temporary measure is effective immediately.
"Transport Canada inspectors, with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services, will enforce this precautionary measures until the whales have migrated from the areas of concern. Failure to comply will result in an Administrative Monetary Penalty of up to $25,000.
"We continue to work with partners to better understand what may have caused the deaths of the North Atlantic right whales—to that end, several necropsies were carried on as many whales as possible.
"We have taken extensive action to ensure the protection of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including decisions around fisheries. To help prevent entanglements, the Snow Crab Fishing Area 12 in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was closed, and other fixed gear fisheries such as rock and toad crab fisheries have either been restricted to fish in shallow water or have had a delayed opening. Future fisheries decisions relating to the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence will take the presence of North Atlantic right whales into account.
"In addition to the reduced speed requirements being introduced today, monitoring and enforcement will continue with Transport Canada's National Aerial Surveillance Program and Fisheries and Oceans surveillance overflights to aid these new measures.
"Our government is already taking steps to protect Canada's marine environment through a $1.5 billion investment in the Oceans Protection Plan. As part of the plan to protect marine mammals from the effects of shipping, including collisions and noise pollution, researchers are working to locate and track marine mammals in high vessel traffic areas and provide this information to mariners.
"We all have a responsibility to ensure that our marine resources are protected for future generations, and must take every step we can to help prevent whale deaths. As we take further concrete steps today, we continue to consider all options to help prevent future whale deaths.
"We look forward to the collaboration of all fishermen and mariners."
For more information:
- Canada's Oceans Protection Plan: http://www.tc.gc.ca/en/campaigns/protecting-coasts.html
- Notices to Shipping / Right whale deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/environmental-environnement/narightwhale-baleinenoirean/index-eng.html
Government Of Canada's Actions To Date On North Atlantic Right Whales
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
SOURCE Transport Canada
For further information: Transport Canada: Marc Roy, Director of Communications, Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Ottawa, 613-991-0840, marc.roy @tc.gc.ca; Media Relations, Transport Canada, Ottawa, 613-993-0055, [email protected] ; Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Laura Gareau, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, 613-992-3474, [email protected]; Media Relations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 613-990-7537