The Government of Canada remains committed to protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale. With only approximately 366 remaining in the world, it is imperative that Canada continues taking strong action to help support the species' recovery.
Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, along with the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced the 2021 measures to help protect North Atlantic right whales from interactions with fishing gear and vessels in Canadian waters.
To help prevent entanglements with fishing gear, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is building on last year's successful measures by continuing to close fishing areas wherever and whenever North Atlantic right whales are present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy, and Roseway Basin Critical Habitat, but the Department will improve its efforts to determine if right whales remain present in closed area before deciding to extend a closure. This change will maintain world-class protection for the whales while also ensuring that harvesters are not prevented from accessing lucrative fishing grounds. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also establishing a new technical working group for harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials. This new collaboration will have regular, in-depth discussions about the right whale measures to ensure continued improvements.
To help prevent collisions with vessels, Transport Canada will be re-implementing its 2020 season measures, including a restriction on vessel speed throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to protect areas where whales are detected, and issuing fines to those who are not compliant with these measures. In addition to these measures, Transport Canada will introduce the following modifications this year:
the mandatory restricted area in and near the Shediac Valley will be refined by size, location, and duration to better protect right whales when they are anticipated to be present in greatest numbers;
the speed limit exemption in waters of less than 20 fathoms will be expanded to all commercial fishing vessels.
These combined measures with the work already underway by the Government of Canada on extensive right whale monitoring and surveillance program with aerial and on-the-water vessel surveillance, underwater stationary and mobile hydrophones, will further protect our marine environment and the navigational safety of all mariners.
The Government of Canada, working closely with its partners and stakeholders, is using the best available data and science to better protect this iconic species in Canadian waters.<