Transport Canada has announced the 2022 season management measures to minimize the risks of ship strikes with North Atlantic right whales (NARWs) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These measures, which are similar to 2021, will apply from April 20 to November 15, 2022. The map below provides an overview of the requirements, which include:
- A Static 10-knot area:Transport Canada is re-introducing the same mandatory 10-knot static speed restriction zone in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, starting April 20 (the zones in light and dark pink in the map below).
- Dynamic shipping zones (DSZs) north and south of Anticosti Island (A, B, C, D, E):TC will continue to allow vessels to travel at safe operational speed in the five DSZs when no NARWs are observed in these areas. The Canadian Coast Guard MCTS will again broadcast information on applicable speed limits to all vessels in these areas, as of April 20. Please also note that:
- DSZ-E will be subject to dynamic managment only between April 20-June 28, coinciding with NARW presence in the Gulf at the beginning of the season. Thereafter, Zone E will remain open to safe navigation, unless a NARW is seen there through opportunistic sightings.
- DSZ-D (north of Anticosti) will be activated only as of June 29, because NARWs have historically arrived in this area of the Gulf later in the season.
- As a reminder, Transport Canada is monitoring the presence of NARWs in the DSZs through aerial surveillance and acoustic detections on a weekly basis and a “dynamic” 10-knot speed limit is activated (for 15 days) when a whale is detected or when the DSZs cannot be surveyed due to weather. In 2021, NARWs observed in the DSZs resulted in slowdowns being activated 7 times (compared to 8 in 2020 and 7 in 2019).
- Cabot Strait: Transport Canada will again implement a 10-knot trial voluntary slowdown in the Cabot Strait to provide greater protection for NARWs migrating in and out of the Gulf (same as 2021). The voluntary slowdown will be in place at the beginning of the season (from April 20 to June 29, 2022) and again at the end (Sept. 28 to Nov 15, 2022).
While much remains unknown about how NARW use the Cabot strait, it is a vital migration corridor for these whales. 2022 will be the third and final trail year for this voluntary slowdown. There has been a dramatic increase in participation rate over the first two years of the trial. However, with approximately 52% participation in 2021, there is a lot of room for improvement. We urge members to increase participation in 2022 and include this important voluntary slowdown area in voyage planning. We will revert to members with reminders and additional information as we get closer to the date.
- “Vessel Restricted Area” in the Shediac Valley: An area to be avoided (no go zone) will be implemented again this year near Shediac Valley to provide additional protection where NARWs aggregate in very high numbers in mid-summer. The timing of this restricted area is based on whale presence, and final coordinates will be communicated in the coming weeks. As a reminder, this will have an impact on vessels destined, for example, to the Port of Belledune.
2022 GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE PROTECTION MEASURES – OVERVIEW MAP
The media release and backgrounder can be accessed HERE. We will revert to members with additional clarification and information, once available. Up-to-date information about this and other speed restrictions is available on the Member’s section of our website under Environment/ Speed Restrictions.
Since 2017, the shipping industry has demonstrated a strong commitment to the protection of NARWs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and we thank shipowners, masters and crews for a high level of compliance with the mandatory management measures. It is essential that the industry maintains these commitments again in 2022 AND increases participation in the voluntary slowdown for Cabot Strait – with NARWs being critically endangered (less than 370 individuals) and the risk of death due to ship strikes remaining very present.
Management measures have certainly assisted in protecting NARWs. No mortalities of these whales were observed in Canadian waters in the past two years. Let’s continue to do the right thing for the right whales.
Please contact the undersigned with questions.
Manager, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs