January 11, 2018 Ottawa, Ontario Transport Canada
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting marine mammals and the marine environment, and enhancing the safety of mariners, fishers, recreational boaters and all users of Canada's oceans and waterways.
To ensure ships can maintain manoeuverability in winter conditions and for the safety of those operating in Canadian waters, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, today announced that the temporary mandatory slowdown for vessels has been lifted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There have been no sightings of North Atlantic right whales in the area of the slow-down in recent weeks. We thank the many vessel operators and captains who complied with this mandatory slow down.
On August 11, 2017, Transport Canada implemented a speed restriction for vessels 20 metres or more to a maximum of 10 knots in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence. This temporary measure was in response to an increased number of right whales observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We are concerned about the unprecedented 12 right whale deaths during the summer of 2017, some of which were determined to be as a result of ship strikes. Transport Canada did not hesitate to take action and issue fines to ship operators who allegedly violated the speed restriction. We continue to investigate all reported cases of non-compliance while the speed restriction was in effect.
A world-leading marine system requires strong environmental protection for Canada’s coastal habitats, ecosystems and marine species, including whales. The Government of Canada continues to work with partners, scientific experts, industry, environmental groups, and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine a comprehensive approach to ensure these marine mammals are protected.
The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. Through this plan, the Government of Canada is creating a marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coasts and waterways for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.
“Our government took forceful action in response to the whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We will continue to monitor the situation and will impose the speed restriction again if the whales migrate back to the area.”
The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport
“While lifting the slowdown at this time helps ensure safe transit for mariners during harsh winter conditions, our focus is on continuing to work with partners on the effective actions we will take to protect the iconic North Atlantic right whale.”
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P.,
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Since August 11, 2017, Transport Canada has issued 13 penalties for alleged non-compliance of the temporary mandatory slowdown.
Several cases are under review by Transport Canada marine safety and security inspectors. 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.
In 2017, 12 North Atlantic right whales died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The global population is approximately 450.
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