Whales are awe-inspiring animals that play an important role in our marine ecosystems. Currently there are roughly only 366 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, which means they face an imminent threat to their survival. It is imperative that we continue to work to protect this iconic species for generations to come.
That’s why I’m pleased to be working with my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, on minimizing the risks to endangered whale species.
We have an obligation to safeguard whales by taking actions that help to address their key threats, including noise pollution, collisions with vessels, and fishing gear entanglement.
In 2020, I’m pleased to say that there were no reported North Atlantic right whale deaths or new entanglements reported in Canadian waters. That’s good news and we’d like to maintain that success this year and into the future.
Our 2020 measures to protect right whales are working. Not only were there no new entanglements or deaths this year, 13 new calves were born!
So this year we’re building on that progress. Whenever whales are detected, DFO will continue to temporarily close the fishing area to protect that whale.
But this year, we’re improving our efforts in determining if whales remain present in closed areas, before deciding to extend a closure.
If a right whale is detected during the second half of a 15-day closure, DFO will extend the fishing area closure.
If a right whale is not detected during the second half of a 15-day closure, DFO will re-open the fishing area after day 15.
This new approach will protect the whales, but it will also ensure that our hard-working fish harvesters are not unnecessarily prevented from accessing lucrative fishing grounds.
We’re also forming a new technical group of harvesters and right whale experts to help us improve our measures year after year. This is a team effort, and we have to be sure that the industry workers who are most impacted are involved in the process.
For the 2021 season, Transport Canada will once again put in place a suite of measures that continue to preserve and protect our marine environment. These will include a mandatory speed restriction through much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where these whales have been detected in greater numbers over the past few years.
We will support the recovery of whales by investing in making a real, long-term and sustained effort.
Protecting species at risk is a responsibility shared by all Canadians. By working together with Indigenous partners, provincial and territorial governments, industry, environmental groups, and all Canadians, we will continue taking real action to protect our whales.
We could not protect these endangered whales without the continued hard work and partnership of our fishing and marine transportation sectors. Every whale that is protected is a direct result of their vigilance and cooperation.
No one wants to see these magnificent creatures put in harm’s way.
On behalf of all Canadians, we thank you. Let’s keep it up.