Transport Canada urged to better protect critically endangered right whales in the Cabot Strait

Oceana Canada has issued a report, Protecting Right Whales from Ship Strikes, that urges Transport Canada to mandate ships travelling in the Cabot Strait, between Newfoundland and Cape Breton – a key migratory route for right whales – to maintain a speed no higher than 10 knots to reduce the lethality for the whales when struck.

The report notes that most vessels did not comply with a two-year trial voluntary slowdown in the strait, put in place in 2020 by Transport Canada. The organization’s analysis, based on Global Fishing Watch satellite data, found that over the two years, on average, 68% of vessels travelled at speeds above the 10-knot voluntary limit and 43% travelled at speeds faster than 12 knots.

According to Oceana Canada, research shows that mandatory, season-long speed restrictions to 10 knots or less could reduce the lethality of a collision by 86%. It also found that mandatory measures have worked in other areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 2021, for example, only 6% of vessels in mandatory slowdown zones travelled at speeds above the 10-knot limit, according to Transport Canada.

North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction, with only around 330 left in the world and only 70 breeding-age females.

Oceana Canada is urgently calling on the government to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by making the slowdown mandatory, permanent and season-long, starting before the whales arrive in Canadian waters each year.

Kim Biggar

Kim Biggar started writing in the supply chain sector in 2000, when she joined the Canadian Association of Supply Chain & Logistics Management. In 2004/2005, she was project manager for the Government of Canada-funded Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, which led to her 13-year role as communications manager of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. A longtime freelance writer, Kim has contributed to publications including The Forwarder, 3PL Americas, The Shipper Advocate and Supply Chain Canada.
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