Statement by Sean Brillant, Senior Conservation Biologist

We are in the middle of the season when North Atlantic right whales occur in Atlantic Canada and, sadly, the middle of another mortality crisis for these endangered species.

The restrictions put in place by the Government of Canada for shipping and fishing activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year are very similar to those in 2018, and there were no right whale deaths last year.

This is, therefore, a very sad and unfortunate situation.

Shipping and fishing cannot be completely removed from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, so clearly there needs to be changes to the way these industries operate.

The Government of Canada has imposed more speed restrictions for ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and CWF is supportive of this action. We encourage the Government to make further changes to the shipping and fishing industries if necessary to reduce additional whale deaths.

We need:

  1. The Government of Canada to apply adaptive, and where necessary, austere management actions on those activities shown to be causing these deaths. For example, at least 2 of the dead right whales were found outside the speed restricted zone established by Transport Canada. Application of this 10 knot speed limit should be considered for the entire southern Gulf of St. Lawrence;
  2. Ongoing and increased support is needed to ensure detailed examinations (necropsies) are done for each dead right whale to determine why it died, so we can change those activities to prevent further deaths; and
  3. More studies and surveys to determine where the whales are, and why they are using the different parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

CWF will continue to closely monitor this situation and will advocate for evidence-based actions that will reduce these deaths.

The survival of North Atlantic right whales is going to require support from all Canadians, and CWF will continue to work with all partners to lead initiatives to support emergency response, conduct research to reduce entanglement risks and raise awareness about this majestic part of our Canadian marine heritage.

Learn more about the work the Canadian Wildlife Federation does in our Coasts & Oceans.