Ottawa adapts the measures to protect right whales

Ottawa adapte les mesures de protection des baleines noires

Photo: Alexander Shields The Archives The Duty

According to the most recent report of the american researchers, the population would amount today to 410 whales. They were close to 500 in 2010.

The federal government will impose again a whole series of measures for the protection of right whales in the gulf of St. Lawrence this year, while adjusting the shot so as to facilitate the practice of fishing, including lobster. These measures are essential to maintain the export market for canadian fisheries.

After the death of 12 right whales in the gulf by 2017, Ottawa has had to put in place in 2018 measures area closures of fisheries, but also impose a speed limit for vessels on a vast territory situated partly in the quebec portion of the gulf.

Result : “no right whale of the north Atlantic is not dead in canadian waters last year, recalled on Thursday the minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson. With his colleague, Marc Garneau, minister of Transport, they have also announced that these strict measures of protection to be in force, primarily between the 28 April and 15 November of this year.

After analyzing the data on the 190 right whales observed in 2018 in the gulf of St. Lawrence, Fisheries and Oceans has, however, reduced of 63 % of the area of complete closure of fisheries with gear static (mainly for the lobster and snow crab), a sector which is located in the south-east of the Gaspé peninsula.

The department anticipates, however, of the zones called “dynamic” which may be closed for up to two weeks if whales are observed in the area. Outside of these areas, the decision to close the area to fishermen will be taken ” case by case “, for example, if three whales or more are observed, or if a female and her calf are seen.

After receiving sharp criticism from lobster fishers, particularly in the Gaspé, the federal government has also decided to allow the fishing very close to shore, in shallower areas.


Commercial vessels greater than 20 metres entering the quebec portion of the gulf of St. Lawrence will also have to adhere to a speed limit. They may, however, use a corridor where the normal speed will be permitted, at least as of right whales are observed. This corridor will be located between the Gaspe peninsula and Anticosti island. Another corridor is planned to the north of Anticosti, an area where right whales are frequently observed.

It also provides a area around the Magdalen Islands, where commercial ships will be able to browse at a normal speed, a request dear to the cruise lines.

The aerial surveillance intensive in the gulf of St. Lawrence, to spot the whales, will also be maintained. The government also hopes to further develop techniques to detect their presence, including using techniques acoustic.

Markets to protect

Last year, the fishing industry had severely criticized some of the measures imposed by the federal government, while some cruise lines have canceled stops in the St. Lawrence river, because of the speed limits for their vessels.

The federal government has not, however, the choice put in place measures to protect right whales, since the canadian fishing industry must comply with by 2022, the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

This u.s. legislation requires the industry, including that of the United States, to demonstrate that its activities do not jeopardize the marine mammals. If this is not the case, the lucrative us market will be closed. However, not less than 80 % of our marine resources are exported.

Because right whales tend to remain easily in fishing gear, measures must be taken to avoid deaths, which threaten the survival of this species. Such measures have also been taken for several years along the u.s. east coast.

Critical Situation

The status of the species remains critical. According to the most recent report of the american researchers, the population would amount today to 410 whales. They were close to 500 in 2010.

What’s more, the data on reproduction show a marked decline in the birth rate. The statistics of the united states Agency for ocean observation and atmospheric show that over the period 2007-2017, the annual average was 18 calves. But the researchers had seen only 5 in 2017, considered then as a very bad year, and zero in 2018. Four calves have been sighted so far this year.

According to the researchers at the New England Aquarium, it is possible, in some cases, females who have experienced an entanglement in fishing gear are not able to reproduce, because of the significant impact on their physical condition.

These animals are also particularly sensitive to the impacts of the oil and gas exploration in the marine environment, in particular because of the noise impacts of operations. However, the us president, Donald Trump, hopes to boost exploration along the east coast, in the heart of the habitat frequented assiduously by right whales.


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