Ship part

Ottawa must act to reduce ship speeds in Cabot Strait and protect right whales: report

HALIFAX-

Data from an oceans conservation group shows that over the past two years most ships using a key migratory route for endangered North Atlantic right whales have not complied with voluntary speed restrictions imposed by Transport Canada.

In its latest report released today, Oceana Canada says the federal government must enforce mandatory, season-long speed limits in the waters of the Cabot Strait, located between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

The group says there are only about 330 North Atlantic right whales left and that the federal government must do more to protect them from ship strikes and death.

Transport Canada has implemented voluntary speed limits in the Cabot Strait, asking vessels to slow to 10 knots for four periods between April 2020 and November 2021.

Oceana Canada tracked vessel speeds during these periods and found that 68% of vessels were traveling at speeds greater than 10 knots and 43% at speeds greater than 12 knots.

The group says the government should impose mandatory speed limits in early April, before the whales travel to this part of the Atlantic.

Kim Elmslie, Oceana’s campaign manager, said in an interview Monday that slower speeds increase the chances of whales surviving impacts with ships. In parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence where speed limits are mandatory, the lethality of collisions with ships is reduced by 86%, she added.

“What we’re finding is that the compliance is not consistent with what they have in their mandatory areas,” Elmslie said.

“The rate of non-compliance over the past two years was far too high for this voluntary trial measure to be considered a success in terms of protecting right whales,” Oceana’s report said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 1, 2022.

This story was produced with financial assistance from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.