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Chamber of Marine Commerce statement on lifting speed restrictions in Gulf of St. Lawrence

January 12, 2018

NEWS RELEASE

OTTAWA, ONTARIO – The Chamber of Marine Commerce is issuing the following statement in response to yesterday’s announcement by Transport Canada that the government will lift speed restrictions on commercial ships operating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Bruce Burrows, President to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said: “We’re pleased to see the speed restrictions lifted as our ship operator members continue winter deliveries of vital products to Canadian companies and northern communities. We are working in tandem with the scientific community and government officials over the winter to develop solutions based on strong science that both protect North Atlantic Right Whales and minimize economic impacts for all Canadians.”

Since summer, Chamber of Marine Commerce ship operator members have been following speed restrictions and closely working with the government to minimize the risk of collisions with North Atlantic Right Whales. Ship operators are also part of the data collection process, regularly reporting whale sightings to government officials as part of efforts to protect this endangered species.

Burrows explained: “From our perspective, more data is needed on where the whales are and how they move around to help determine if a specific shipping lane could be established that would avoid contact with whales and allow ships to move without speed restrictions. The shipping industry is collaborating with government and the scientific community to explore what technology could be used to address this issue.”

At an October 4 meeting, an informal committee was formed to collaborate with industry, government, and academic scientists on developing measures to protect the North Atlantic Right Whales from ship related impacts, namely collisions. CMC is working with les Armateurs du Saint Laurent, Croisières du St Laurent, Cruise Lines International Association, and the Shipping Federation of Canada.

From this committee, a small working group is developing collaborative arrangements and a list of feasible technical options to protect whales in the 2018 season. This work is being done over the early part of the winter to enable the government to develop a collaborative approach to protect the right whales if they return to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the spring.

Different potential solutions being explored include:

•  How to provide real-time data to ships to slow down and avoid whales in proximity.

•  How to improve data collection to determine whale patterns to re-route shipping lanes to reduce probability of coming into contact with whales.

Record of collaboration

This builds on a record of collaboration in protecting North Atlantic Right Whales that has been successful for more than decade.

As major users of North Atlantic waters, Canadian shipowners have long been engaged in research and other measures to protect marine wildlife and habitat. The shipping industry reduces speed and alters routes in critical whale habitats, regularly collects important data for scientists and helps test new technology such as the early-warning whale alert system under development by a scientific group being hosted at Dalhousie University.

Past measures taken in critical habitat such as the Bay of Fundy in 2003 have significantly reduced the threat of ship strikes to North Atlantic right whales. In the Bay of Fundy, changes to the shipping lane through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) were successful. Analysis found an overall 62% reduction in risk by moving the lane with a 1.4% increase in time for ships, while a slowdown would have only reduced risk by 52%, with a 20% increase in time. In the region where the whales typically aggregate the lane changes reduced the risk by 90%.

 

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About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 130 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber has merged with the Canadian Shipowners Association, combining resources to advocate for an efficient regulatory climate that promotes a strong and competitive marine industry for the benefit of all industry stakeholders throughout the bi-national Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region and along the eastern seaboard and northern coasts.  Based in Ottawa, Canada, the merged entity will continue to be called the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

 

Media Contact

Julia Fields

Chamber of Marine Commerce

(613) 294-8515