Transport Canada has announced the 2023 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 essentially the same as 2022, will apply from April 19 to November 15, 2023.
- The media release and backgrounder can be accessed HERE.
- Coordinates of the measures can be found in SSB – 05/2023 HERE.
- Up-to-date information about this and other speed restrictions throughout Canada is maintained 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, and increasingly strong participation in the voluntary slowdown, which significantly reduced the risks to these whales.
It is essential that the industry maintains these commitments – NARWs are critically endangered (less than 370 individuals) and the risk of death due to ship strikes remains very present. Management measures have assisted in protecting NARWs, and no mortalities of these whales were observed in Canadian waters in the past three years.
THE 2023 REQUIREMENTS INCLUDE:
STATIC 10-KNOT AREA
Transport Canada is re-introducing the mandatory 10-knot static speed restriction zone in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, starting April 19 (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 19. Please also note that:
- DSZ-E will be subject to dynamic managment only between April 19-June 27, 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 28, because NARWs have historically arrived in this area of the Gulf later in the season.
- 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 2022, NARWs observed in the DSZs resulted in slowdowns being activated twice (compared to 7 times in 2021, 8 in 2020).
CABOT STRAIT VOLUNTARY SEASONAL 10-KNOT SLOWDOWN
Transport Canada will again implement a 10-knot voluntary slowdown in the Cabot Strait to provide greater protection for NARWs migrating in and out of the Gulf. The voluntary slowdown will be in place at the beginning of the season (from April 19 to June 27, 2023) and again at the end (Sept. 27 to Nov 15, 2023).
Cabot strait is a vital migration corridor for these whales. Based on high industry participation in a successful voluntary slowdown in this area during a three-year trial, with an increasing participation trend, including over 82% of vessels making the effort to participate last spring, risk to the whales in Cabot Strait was reduced and the seasonal slowdown in Cabot Strait will be voluntary again in 2023. We urge members to include this important voluntary slowdown area in voyage planning. We will revert to members with reminders and materials to distribute to vessels.
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 coordinates are the same as in 2022. This will have an impact on vessels destined, for example, to the Port of Belledune.
2023 GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE PROTECTION MEASURES – OVERVIEW MAP
NOTIFICATIONS OF NARW DYNAMIC SHIPPING ZONE (DSZ) CHANGES
Advance Notice: The Federation will not be emailing advance notice of NARW DSZ speed restrictions being implemented and lifted in 2023. However, advance notice of changes in these speed restricitons can be received directly from TC. To receive them, please email email@example.com and request to be added to the “NARW heads-up” email distribution list.
NAVWARNs issued by the Canadian authorities remain the source of official information and details to ensure compliance. You can register to receive NAVWARN alerts on North Atlantic right whales (NARWs) here. (Select “series Q”, Category: waterways information, subcategory: North Atlantic Right Whale). The most recent relevant NAVWARN can also be accessed via the CCG NAVWARN website by entering “North Atlantic right whale” in the search box.
Please contact the undersigned with questions.
Manager, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs