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.

Just Posted

Sylvan Lakers to perform in upcoming “The Nutcracker” ballet

The five dancers will grace the stage during the three day production at Red Deer College Dec. 13-15

Eckville community programs receive funding from Lacombe County

Three community programs in Eckville made the list alongside eight other programs in the county

Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake expanding to 18-hole course

Lakewood Golf Resort was approved for the expansion by Red Deer County at a recent meeting

Two dead in three-car collision on Hwy 11 near Alberta Springs Golf Course

Two women were pronounced dead on the scene of an accident Wednesday afternoon

The best caesar in Canada can be found in Sylvan Lake

Kjeryn Dakin’s Tragically Hips caesar won the national Best Caesar in Town competition

VIDEO: Kenney lays out key demands for meeting with Trudeau

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aims for clear signs of federal action on two-day Ottawa trip

Teen seriously injured: Police in Lethbridge, Alta., charge 5 people in swarming

Police say a 16-year-old boy made arrangements to meet with a young woman before he was attacked

PODCAST: The Expert welcomes AA Lacombe General Jared Williams

Lacombe resident joined Red Deer Advocate Sports Reporter Byron Hackett and Host Todd Vaughan

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Online ‘direct threats’ lead to cancellation of school dance in Blackfalds

Threats resulted from Grade 4 social studies class discussing energy sector

Blackfalds RCMP warn of poor driving conditions on QEII

Vehicles have been involved in collisions and are in the ditch

MP Blaine Calkins: Alberta left behind in Speech from the Throne

Liberal course does nothing for Alberta economy, crime

Would you leave your baby alone to go to the gym? This Canadian dad did

The man identifies just as a divorced dad with a nine-month-old baby

Lawyer competence includes knowledge of Indigenous-Crown history: B.C. law society

All practising lawyers in B.C. will be required to take a six-hour online course covering these areas

Most Read