Action taken to date
On August 11, 2017, the Government of Canada implemented speed restrictions for vessels 20 metres or longer to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence.
In 2018, we took action for a second year to minimize risks for navigational safety and North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Dynamic shipping zones A, B, C and D were introduced to facilitate commercial traffic passage through the North Atlantic right whales’ speed control zone.
There were no documented fatalities of North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters in 2018.
Based on consultations with industry and on scientific data from the previous two years, two changes were made to the static and dynamic shipping zones of 2018, which took effect on April 28, 2019:
- The southeast corner of the static zone, around the Magdalen Islands was removed.
- To help reduce impacts on the marine transportation industry, vessels were allowed, in the absence of North Atlantic right whale sightings, to travel at safe speeds in a larger area north of Anticosti Island, extending to the mainland.
In response to North Atlantic right whale deaths in Canadian waters in June and July 2019, the Government of Canada took further concrete actions to help protect these marine mammals:
- On June 26, 2019, Transport Canada implemented an interim precautionary measure of a mandatory speed restriction of 10 knots, for vessels of 20 metres or more in length travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, in parts of two shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island. Based on the extensive aerial surveillance in July and the absence of North Atlantic right whales reported in the dynamic shipping zones, Transport Canada returned to a dynamic approach to managing the dynamic shipping zones, effective August 2, 2019.
- On July 8, 2019, the Government of Canada announced new vessel traffic management measures to further protect the North Atlantic right whale. These additional measures included:
- slowing down more ships to include those measuring more than 13 metres in length;
- expanding the zones in which speed restrictions apply (extending the static zone to the east and adding dynamic shipping zone E);
- dividing the mandatory static zone into northern and southern zones;
- expanding the surveillance buffer zone around the dynamic shipping zones; and
- increasing aerial surveillance.
In 2020, to better protect the North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters, we further enhanced the protection measures by implementing:
- A new trial voluntary slowdown in the Cabot Strait to coincide with the bulk of the North Atlantic right whale migration in and out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
- new seasonal management areas, which are additional speed restriction areas located north and south of dynamic shipping zone E;
- a new mandatory restricted area located in and near the Shediac Valley to better protect right whales where a large number of them are anticipated to be present in this area during the summer months. The location, size, and triggering mechanism was based on in-season detections; and
- incorporated the use of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (or drone) and an underwater acoustic glider into our surveillance and monitoring plans for part of the 2020 season.
For the second consecutive year, there were no known North Atlantic right whale deaths in Canadian waters. Therefore, the evidence-based vessel traffic management measures for the 2020 North Atlantic right whales’ season were re-implemented in the 2021 season , with the following minor modifications:
- A second year of the Cabot Strait trial voluntary slowdown in the spring and in the fall;
- a mandatory restricted area located in and near the Shediac Valley. Location and size were both based on historical data of North Atlantic right whales’ aggregations, while the triggering mechanism was based on in-season detections;
- a second underwater acoustic glider was deployed in the Cabot Strait mid-season, to increase monitoring of North Atlantic right whales in this area.