May 23, 2024 | Circular No. 10669

Dear Member,

Vessels transiting St. Lawrence River June- October, 2024 will be asked to participate in a scientific study to assess whether using an alternate route within the St. Lawrence-Saguenay Marine Park can reduce impacts of underwater noise from vessels on the St. Lawrence River beluga whales, a species listed as ‘Threatened’ under the Species-At-Risk Act. We recommend that member vessels participate in this study.

  • No operational impact (no delay) is anticipated.
  • This area is under mandatory pilotage. Pilots will communicate with vessel crew about the study, and route the vessel as per the study parameters.
  • Vessel crew will be requested to provide some basic information about the vessel operation (speed through water, main engine RPM, number of auxiliary engines in operation).
  • Two hydrophones (see map below) will measure and record underwater noise from vessels and by beluga whales, in order to assess if routing vessels further south results in less noise for the whales.

Context:

As part of the Federation’s commitment to environmentally sustainable shipping, we participate in the development of measures to protect At-Risk whales in the St. Lawrence River via a multi-stakeholder working group that includes industry, marine conservation/ scientific, and government representatives. Voluntary measures we co-developed have now been in place for over a decade in this area with high participation rates, but those do not cover important whale habitats, including beluga habitat.

This scientific study is part of an effort to implement efficient and effective measures to meet conservation objectives. As there is a proposal to significantly expand the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park as a part of Canada’s commitment to protect 30% of its waters by 2030, we anticipate further proposals and conversations around the impacts of shipping in the marine park.

We recommend member vessels participate in this scientific study. Information including a map is available in this ‘Call for Participation’ document, which you may distribute to vessels, and will be also be provided by pilots aboard vessels transiting this area between June and October, 2024.

Please contact the undersigned with questions or comments.

Sincerely,

Miako Ushio
Director, Environmental Affairs

 

St Lawrence River beluga           ©Parcs Canada.

Map of St. Lawrence River Beluga Whale Scientific Study Area