A North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Dwyer

Government lifts speed restrictions after spotting no whales in shipping lanes

Lower speed limit had driven cargo ships out of the lanes so they could take more direct routes

The federal government has lifted speed restrictions meant to protect North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after finding that the policy may have been pushing ships closer to the endangered mammals.

There weren’t any whales in the shipping lanes where speed had been reduced, Transport Canada announced Friday, adding that the lower speed limit had driven cargo ships out of the lanes so they could take more direct routes through areas where the animals are known to gather.

The agency said it hopes that raising the speed limit will push ships back into the lanes.

“Although we are allowing vessels to transit at safe operating speeds in the designated shipping lanes, if even one North Atlantic right whale is spotted, we will immediately implement another slowdown,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a written statement issued Friday.

Transport Canada said it came to the decision after its aerial surveillance team spent 240 hours flying over the gulf over the past month, scouring the waters for whales.

The speed restrictions were initially introduced in April and expanded in area in June and July as a growing number of whales were found dead or dying.

So far in 2019, eight right whales have died in Canadian waters — the worst death toll since 2017 when 12 of the species were found dead in Canada and five others died in the United States.

But one expert said the reversed policy could be a misstep on the government’s part.

“It is definitely a tough situation and they need to be attentive to the fact that trying to cut these regulations too close to the wire could — well, it’s like playing with fire. How close can you get your hand to the stove before you get burned?” said Sean Brillant, a senior conservation biologist for the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

“And they may end up getting burned.”

According to a whale tracking website used by researchers, Brillant said, the last time a right whale was seen in a shipping lane was on July 23, a little over a week before the speed restriction was lifted.

He said the fact that the government didn’t see whales in the shipping lanes while they were out doesn’t mean the whales aren’t there.

“I don’t think it’s a precautionary decision. I understand sort of why they’re doing it, but it’s certainly not precautionary … I am worried that they’re sort of pushing the limit a little bit,” Brillant said, adding that he doesn’t know what the solution is right now.

READ MORE: Ottawa fines two cargo ships for speeding in right whale protection zone

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Williams Lake and District 4-H live auction takes place Monday, Aug. 10

District 4-H vice-president said he’s hopeful the community will show its support

Williams Lake RCMP investigating break and enter in Miocene

A large amount of items were stolen from a family home

Wheels in motion for mountain biking trail project near Clinton

Project to provide immediate employment while resulting in new trail on Jesmond Mountain

Williams Lake RCMP investigating break-in, crash, stolen vehicle

A single vehicle crash that knocked out hydro overnight being investigated as impaired driving

Forest Ink: Private land improvement ideas shared

Columnist Jim Hilton visits a Rose Lake property to see forest work being done by the owner

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Salmon arrive in larger numbers at Big Bar landslide

Arrival follows historic high-water levels that halted migration runs

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

Most Read