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Ottawa unveils 2020 North Atlantic right whale protection measures

Canada’s federal government today announced enhanced 2020 measures designed to reduce the risks to North Atlantic right whales from interactions with vessels and fishing gear between April and November. There are some 400 left in the world of the endangered iconic marine mammal.

“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,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau. “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.”

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; 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: a 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.
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. All measures apply to vessels longer than 13 metres. Photo: Wikipedia public domain