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Ships fined for speeding through whale zone in Canada

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Two cargo ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were each issued a $7,800 fine on July 26 for allegedly breaking speed limits intended to protect endangered whales, according to a press release from Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for the country’s transportation policies and programs. 

Since then, six more vessels – three cargo ships, a private yacht and two Canadian coast guard ships – were also cited for breaking the speed limit and face fines ranging from CA$6,000 to CA$12,000.

Mandatory speed restrictions apply to any vessel over 42.6 feet (13m).

Regulations established on April 28 to protect endangered whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were expanded in early July, according to Transport Canada. The slowdown zone, where ship speed cannot exceed 10 knots throughout the season, now stretches further east. Also, vessels in one particular shipping lane now must slow down to 10 knots when a North Atlantic right whale is spotted in the area. Meanwhile, the government’s aerial surveillance of the area has been increased.

“The government of Canada is determined to take all necessary steps to enable marine mammals to safely coexist with ship traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” stated Marc Garneau, Canada’s minister of transport.

According to CBC News, eight North Atlantic right whales have died in Canadian waters since early June. Instead of heading to traditional summer foraging grounds in the Bay of Fundy and the Roseway Basin off southwestern Nova Scotia, the whales have shifted to a more northerly destination – right into the busy shipping lanes of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told the Canadian news agency that only one death has been reported since the new measures went into effect on July 8. There are reportedly just 400 right whales left on the planet. 

Owners of the two ships – Dutch container ship Americaborg and Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Atlantic Spirit – have 30 days to pay the penalty or ask the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada to review the facts of their violations or the amounts of their penalties. 

For more information on the regulations, visit Transport Canada at tc.gc.ca.

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