OTTAWA, ON, Aug. 15, 2017 – 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.
For more information, please visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca.
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. For more information visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca.
Sean Brillant, Senior Conservation Biologist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 902-237-9692
Heather Robison, Media and Community Relations Officer, email@example.com, 306-540-5302
The Canadian Wildlife Federation leads many marine conservation and education programs.
Supporting Emergency Response
Partners in the Canadian Marine Animal Alliance (C-MARA) including the Marine Animal Response Society in Nova Scotia and the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals in Québec have been working tirelessly with government and other organizations to to address the current situation in the St Lawrence.
Reducing Entanglement Risk
CWF recently published scientific research in the journal Marine Policy which called for a 30 per cent reduction in risk to right whale entanglement by restricting seasonal fishing from the Grand Manan Basin (Bay of Fundy, NB) and the Roseway Basin (Scotian Shelf, NS) between July and October which are peak whale migration times.
- The Hinterland Who’s Who program, supported by CWF, recently released a North Atlantic Right Whale public service announcement. This is part of a special Canada 150 series featuring wildlife that have played a significant role in Canadian and Indigenous history and culture including the Beaver, Atlantic Cod, Pacific Salmon, Bison and Snowy Owl.
- Throughout the summer, CWF will be engaging Canadians in a quest to find Canada’s great whales through W.H.a.L.E (Whale Habitat and Learning Experiment) that uses state of the art underwater drone technology to search for Canada’s Great Whales in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and allow people to follow their locations through interactive on-line maps and blog updates.
CWF Right Whale Research Summary
- The endangered North Atlantic right whale population is current estimated at about 522 animals
- Almost all the risk to right whales from Canadian fishing gear occurs during July, August and September (12 per cent, 50 per cent and 37 per cent respectively)
- About 108 right whales become entangled each year
- Conservatively, 2 to 6 right whales are killed every year due to entanglement
- If the risk of entanglement is reduced by 30 per cent, this would prevent the death of at least two right whales every three years and prevent as many as 32 fewer entanglements annually
- The groundfish fishery contributes the greatest proportion (86 per cent) of annual entanglement risk in Canada. Groundfish in these basins include cod, haddock, hake, and flounder.
- Restricting fishing from Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin from July through October could achieve a 38 per cent risk reduction to right whales from Canadian fishing gear.
- Restricting groundfish longline fishing from Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin from July through October would achieve a 35 per cent reduction in risk to right whales from Canadian fishing gear.
- Restrictions could displace 140 tonnes of seafood catches, but achieve substantial sustainability targets.
- Reducing the risk of right whale entanglement in commercial fishing gear Canada will help secure exports of fish to the US, which has adopted new rules for seafood imports requiring suppliers to prove their catches were harvested with minimal harm to marine mammals.
CWF Plastics Reduction Petition
CWF is concerned that Canada’s current vision for waste does not make reducing plastic litter a priority. A sustainable packaging initiative was developed by the government in 2012 but it has not been fully implemented. As a result, many marine and fresh water species ingest plastics or become entangled in plastic debris. For example, sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jelly fish, their primary food source. CWF is working with the Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada to raise awareness of the consequences of plastic pollution highlighted through the documentary “A Plastic Ocean.” The stats are alarming:
- More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped in oceans every year
- About 50 per cent of plastic is used just once and thrown away
- Packaging is estimated to account for about 40 per cent of total plastic usage worldwide
- An estimated 14 per cent of all litter comes from beverage containers. When caps and labels are considered, the number is higher
- Half of all single use plastics have an average useful timeline of 12 minutes
CWF’s sustainable packaging petition will be presented to federal government in the fall. CWF is also encouraging the public to reduce dependence on frivolous single use plastics such as straws, cutlery, food and beverage containers.
For more information visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca