Canadian Wildlife Federation Praises Government for Reducing Threats to Whales

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North Atlantic Right Whales

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is pleased by the federal government’s prompt interventions to reduce threats to critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales. But while the new mandatory shipping speed limits and fines may reduce mortalities temporarily, CWF continues to call for long-term and proactive efforts to reduce threats in future years.

“CWF is looking forward to working with the government to develop long-term, proactive actions that will prevent us from having another disastrous year like this,” said Sean Brillant, CWF manager of marine programs.

So far ten Right Whales have died in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence this summer, a critical blow to a population of only 500 of the animals worldwide. CWF is encouraged by the federal government’s commitments to reducing the conflicts between whales, ships and fisheries. These actions are unprecedented and appropriate, Brillant said.

The mandatory speed restrictions are effective immediately in the western part of the gulf, from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island. The restrictions are mandatory for vessels larger than 20m with a request for smaller vessels to also adhere to this restriction voluntarily. This is a temporary requirement that limits speeds to 10 knots. Fines of up to $25,000 will be issued to ships violating the regulations.

The federal government also committed to addressing the fishing in areas that are high risk to cause entanglements. Blunt force trauma from collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear are the two largest threats to the animals.

“We are increasing our knowledge of how North Atlantic Right Whales use the Gulf of St Lawrence, but we already know how they use other parts of the Maritimes, such as Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin,” Brillant said. “More action is needed.”

CWF is leading initiatives and research to support emergency response, reduce entanglement risks and raise awareness about this majestic part of our Canadian marine heritage. CWF has also recently launched a petition calling for the federal government to implement sustainable packaging regulations to tackle the plastic litter in our oceans. Current predictions indicate that if current trends continue there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

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About the Canadian Wildlife Federation:

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, carrying out research, developing and delivering education programs, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending changes to policy and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature.

Photo: Lauren Packard (cc)