Last week, the Canadian government announced it had fined a vessel for endangering North Atlantic right whales.
Endangered whales such as the majestic North Atlantic right whale deserve to swim danger-free in Canadian waters, according to Transport Canada. That is why the government of Canada has introduced several measures to address risks they face by marine shipping and fishing activity.
One of the implemented measures includes speed restrictions in certain zones in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and when a vessel violates the restriction, the Canadian government takes swift action. Marc Garneau, the Canadian Minister of Transport, announced last week that the department is fining the vessel Big Eagle for alleged non-compliance of a temporary mandatory speed restriction. The vessel will be issued a $6,000 (Can.) fine.
“The recent deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are extremely concerning," Garneau said in a statement. "Our government is determined to take all action necessary to promote the safe coexistence of marine mammals and ship traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We continue to work with the maritime industry, science experts, and our United States partners to monitor the situation and address any risks faced by the North Atlantic right whale."
On July 8, 2019, Transport Canada implemented additional precautionary measures to those already in effect since April 28, to address the risks whales face from vessel activity. These included expanding the current slowdown zone further east where vessels are required to travel at 10 knots throughout the season, and a new slowdown shipping lane where vessels are required to slow down to 10 knots when a North Atlantic right whale is spotted in the area. Mandatory speed restrictions were expanded to include any vessel over 13 meters long. Previously the restriction applied to vessels 20 meters and over.
In addition, Transport Canada augmented its whale monitoring activity by its National Aerial Surveillance Program and increased surveillance to two flights per day, weather permitting. Information from increased surveillance will be analyzed to determine best practices and inform any additional measure that may be required to protect whales this season.
To ensure speed restriction compliance, Transport Canada along with the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centers monitors marine traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. While the shipping industry has been overwhelmingly compliant in respecting the speed limit in the designated areas, Transport Canada continues to investigate all cases of alleged non-compliance.
Vessels not in compliance will be issued a fine ranging from $6,000 to $25,000 (Can.), depending on the severity of the infraction and repeated offenses. Any vessel owner charged and issued a fine has 30 days to pay the penalty or ask the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada to review the facts of the violation or the amount of the penalty.