Ottawa announces 2019 measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales

SHIPPAGAN, N.B. — Ottawa has announced measures aimed at protecting North Atlantic right whales, finessing rules that officials say helped prevent any known deaths of the endangered mammals last year in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the new rules Thursday in Shippagan, N.B.

“We met with harvesters, shippers, Indigenous leaders, environmental organizations and other stakeholders to ensure we appropriately reflected on the 2018 experiences, and looked to ensure the integrity of whale protection initiatives while also being as sensitive as possible to important economic interests,” said Wilkinson during a news conference.

Beginning April 28 through Nov. 15, the government will reintroduce mandatory speed restrictions for vessels 20 metres or longer when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Ships will continue to be allowed to travel at safe operational speeds in parts of two shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island, when no whales are in the area.

But the area where mandatory speed restrictions apply will be adjusted this year to reflect data on right whale sightings and to minimize the impact on the cruise ship and shipping industries.

Last year’s speed reduction measures led some cruise ships to cancel visits, and prompted at least one shipping line to hike rates.

Senior government officials said Thursday the southeast area around the Magdalen Islands will be removed from the speed restriction zone, helping reduce the impact on cruise ships.

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