As greater numbers of North Atlantic Right Whales (NARWs) have moved in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the last three years, the shipping industry has demonstrated a very strong commitment to their protection- achieving well over 95% compliance with the government's mandatory management measures.
Since last Fall, the Shipping Federation of Canada has been working with Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to further enhance protection measures in the Gulf for the upcoming NARW season, while supporting efficient navigation in the vital shipping corridors of the Atlantic, the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes.
The 2020 management measures announced by Transport Canada today (click here) reflect our commitments with the departments, and are aimed at better focussing protection measures where and when it matters, and increasing detection efforts in order to gather more data on the distribution of these whales.
We do, however, believe that the new measure in the Cabot Strait will raise some challenges. Adding a voluntary slowdown area of over 50 nautical miles in Cabot to an already complex series of mandatory measures in the Gulf raises the potential for major additional impacts on some segments of our industry as well as the possibility of confusion as to what regime is applicable. We are therefore urging the departments to explore the feasibility and benefits of moving the existing shipping lanes in the Cabot Strait away from the likely transit paths of NARWs, as a possibly better alternative to slowing vessels down in this specific area.
Over the next few months, as shipowners, masters and crew work to implement the 2020 measures, we will continue our discussions with Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to identify possible alternatives in the Cabot Strait for next season.