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Quebec Bulletin
June - July 2013/Volume 16/Number 3

Solid Collaboration to Protect Marine Mammals in the St. Lawrence Estuary

Commercial ships and whales co-existing in the St.  Lawrence Estuary
Jonathan Normand
Commercial ships and whales co-existing in the St. Lawrence Estuary

The co-existence of whales and ships in the St. Lawrence Estuary sometimes results in fatal collisions for the animals. For the St. Lawrence Blue and Beluga Whale, two species with critical populations, the death of a few mammals represents a serious threat to their recovery. The situation was brought to the attention of the Government of Canada, marine industry partners and various organizations involved, who formed the Working Group on Marine Traffic and Protection of Marine Mammals. The objective: reducing the risk of collisions.

Therefore, since May 31, 2013, voluntary measures applicable to commercial and cruise ships have been in effect in certain areas of the St. Lawrence Estuary. These areas are known for their resident population of beluga whales and the presence of a wide variety of marine mammals that migrate there to feed.

These interim measures, recommended by the Working Group, are based on best available knowledge and identify specific areas where increased vigilance will be implemented. Without jeopardizing shipping activities or marine safety, the measures specifically aim to reduce speeds at the head of the Laurentian Channel off Tadoussac and identify an area to avoid downstream of Les Escoumins.

The main strength of the Working Group lies in the sum of its united expertise, in terms of both marine traffic and marine mammals. This has contributed to establishing realistic measures that take into account safe and efficient navigation limitations, as well as available scientific information.

Co-chaired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada, the Working Group on Marine Traffic and Protection of Marine Mammals is made up of representatives from St. Lawrence Shipoperators, the Corporation of the Lower St. Lawrence Pilots, the École de technologie supérieure, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, the Université de Montréal, and the University of British Columbia. Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard also participate as advisors.

These voluntary measures are being tested until October. Data obtained during this period will help to assess the results and improve the measures.

For further information on these voluntary measures, please consult section 505 of the Notices to Mariners Publication Eastern Edition, 05/2013.


Key facts

  • The waters in and around the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park are known for their resident beluga population and the wide variety of whales that migrate there to feed, particularly between May and October.
  • Collisions are a threat to the recovery of certain species at risk, particularly the Blue and Beluga Whale, which are protected under the Species at Risk Act.
  • All whale species in the St. Lawrence Estuary are protected under the Marine Mammal Regulations, pursuant to the Fisheries Act. Specific measures apply within the boundaries of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, as set out in the Marine Activities in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations.
  • Any collision with a marine mammal within the Marine Park must immediately be reported to a park warden at 1-866-508-9888. For collisions that occur outside the Marine Park or for any situation involving a marine mammal that is dead or in trouble, contact the emergency network at 1-877-722-5346 or on channel 16.

Guy Cantin
Ecosystems Management

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