New measures announced to protect North Atlantic right whales


OTTAWA — The federal government has announced new measures to protect North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that have been dying from ship strikes and getting caught in fishing gear.

The new measures will include increased aerial surveillance to try to spot the whales in the gulf and extending speed limits for ships east of the current speed-restriction zone, where vessels will have to reduce speed to 10 knots when a right whale is spotted in the area.

Ships travelling in a buffer zone of up to five nautical miles around these areas will also have to slow down if a whale is seen.

Smaller ships — those longer than 13 metres — will now also be subject to the speed restrictions, where previously only ships over 20 metres were affected.

To reduce entanglements in fishing gear, the trigger to close a fishery is being adjusted so that if even one right whale is spotted anywhere in the gulf, all non-tended fixed-gear fisheries will be closed for 15 days in addition to existing closures.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the deaths of six North Atlantic right whales since June have prompted the government to implement urgent new measures to try to protect this iconic and endangered species.


The Canadian Press