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Please refer to our latest alert “Canada further strengthens measures to protect whales in Gulf of St. Lawrence” for an overview of measures in force as of 9 July 2019. 

Following the unfortunate deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in its waters, Canada requires vessels to travel at 10 knots or less in certain parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In an effort to reduce right whale mortality due to vessel strikes, the government of Canada on 26 June 2019 implemented interim precautionary speed restrictions for vessels 20 meters in overall length or more, to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the two designated shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island.

According to Transport Canada, this temporary measure comes in addition to the static 10 knot speed restriction that took effect in a large area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on 28 April 2019 and failure to comply with either restriction can result in a fine of up to CAD 25,000.

Overview of precautionary measures

For the 2019 season, Transport Canada uses two measures to protect right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence:

  • Implementation of a static speed reduction zone, shown in pink colour in the map below. In this zone, vessels of 20 m in overall length or more must travel at 10 knots or less from 28 April to 15 November 2019. Other (smaller) vessels are encouraged to also respect the speed limits.
  • Implementation of a dynamic speed restriction zone, shown in green colour in the map below. This zone includes two designated shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island and temporary speed restrictions in this zone are implemented in designated areas when a right whale is spotted in or near the shipping lane. The designated areas are identified as dynamic shipping sections A, B, C, and D on the map.

 

 

Transport Canada does, however, recognize that weather and sea conditions can impact the safe operation of a vessel and emphasizes that vessels operating in one of the stated zones when the speed restriction is in effect are required to operate at a maximum of 10 knots only when safe to do so.

Recommendations

Members and clients trading to Canada should make every effort to ensure that Masters are informed of the static and dynamic slow down zones currently in force in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Since Transport Canada’s statement of 26 June 2019 does not point to one or more of the designated dynamic shipping sections, vessel are, until further noticed, advised to assume that the 10 knot speed restriction applies in all four sections (A, B, C and D in the map above).

Please refer to Transport Canada’s website “Protecting North Atlantic right whales from collisions with ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence” for additional information.