Statement on New Measures to Protect North Atlantic Right Whales
The Chamber of Marine Commerce is issuing the following statement in response to the announcement by Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada on shipping mitigation measures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to help protect North Atlantic Right Whales.
Bruce Burrows, President to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said: “We are pleased that the government has made some refinements to this year’s mitigation measures that will continue to protect the endangered right whales and at the same time increase the efficiency of deliveries of supplies to the surrounding communities that depend on marine transport. The changes will allow ships to travel without speed restrictions in two additional shipping areas but only if surveillance continues to show that no whales are present.”
“Collaboration between industry, academia and government on this important issue has proven very successful so far. There were no sightings of whales in the dynamic shipping zones during the 2018 shipping season and no known vessels collisions with right whales. We are continuing to work together to monitor the progress of these measures and to improve whale surveillance methods. We look forward to seeing the results of the government’s trials of drone surveillance and acoustic gliders this coming season.”
Slowdowns were in effect within one or more of the dynamic zones for approximately 20 per cent of the time last year mainly because surveillance could not take place due to weather or other reasons – a percentage the Chamber of Marine Commerce and other maritime organizations hope can be reduced in the future.
“Slowing down unnecessarily comes at a significant cost and challenge, especially for the schedule-dependent vessels supplying Quebec’s North Shore communities, but also other transport – everything from just-in-time bulk shipments to cruise itineraries,” Burrows explains.
The slowdowns not only make journeys longer but can launch a domino effect. “If ships miss scheduled pilotage, stevedoring or other port-related services, they encounter further delays, as well as possible late fees and/or overtime charges.”
Record of collaboration
As major users of North Atlantic waters, Canadian shipowners have long been engaged in research and other measures to protect marine wildlife and habitat. The shipping industry reduces speed and alters routes in critical whale habitats, regularly collects important data for scientists and helps test new technology such as the early-warning whale alert system under development by a scientific group being hosted at Dalhousie University.
Past measures taken in critical habitat such as the Bay of Fundy in 2003 have significantly reduced the threat of ship strikes to North Atlantic right whales. In the Bay of Fundy, changes to the shipping lane through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) were successful. Analysis found an overall 62% reduction in risk by moving the lane with a 1.4% increase in time for ships, while a slowdown would have only reduced risk by 52%, with a 20% increase in time. In the region where the whales typically aggregate the lane changes reduced the risk by 90%.