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

Highway 1 closed near Golden

DriveBC estimates the road to reopen at 1 p.m.

Kicking Horse Update Wednesday, January 22

Kicking Horse reports 1 cm of snow in the last 24 hours.… Continue reading

Highway Update Wednesday, January 22

Highway 1 is closed out by Quartz Creek FSR, due to a… Continue reading

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

Kicking Horse Update Tuesday January 21

Kicking Horse reports 4 cm of snow in the last 24 hours,… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protests in support of Wet’suwet’en continue at B.C. government buildings

‘We are unarmed, they have guns,’ protesters chanted on Wednesday morning

Harry and Meghan should cover their own security costs: NDP heritage critic

The prince, Meghan Markle and their eight-month-old son Archie are reportedly staying at a mansion near Victoria

Theo the 800-pound pig trimmed down and still looking for love on Vancouver Island

“He’s doing really well, lost quite a few pounds and can run now.”

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

B.C.’s first ride-hailing app to launch in Tofino, Whistler in February

The Whistle! app will be available in Tofino on Feb.1 and in Whistler Feb. 6.

Councillor resigns in Revelstoke after colleagues approved 67% raise

Council approved a 134 per cent raise for the mayor of Revelstoke

Rolled-over dairy truck in Abbotsford lost 40,000 litres of milk

Truck removed Sunday, Jan. 19, with specialized equipment to upright vehicle

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Most Read