Subscribe Email RSS
Infoceans logo

Quebec Bulletin
October-November 2017/Volume 20/Number 5

Special Brief (3rd section)
Canadian Coast Guard MCTS Centres Also Participate in Protecting North America Right Whales

Photo of a man in front of several computer screens and watching a vessel through the window
MCTS centre officers continuously monitor the transit speed of vessels (A photo of the MCTS centre at Les Escoumins).

Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centres play a key role in enforcing the temporary measures announced in August to prevent the deaths of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Statistics show that for some years, several right whales spent the summer off the Gaspé Peninsula or along the Lower North Shore. The increased presence of whales in this area in particular is what prompted the Government of Canada to delineate the protection quadrilateral where vessel speed must not exceed 10 knots. Necropsies performed on some whales give the impression that not only collisions with vessels, but also bycatch in fishing gear, may be among the causes of death. Moreover, according to scientists with the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), 50% of the deaths observed in this species between 1991 and 2007 were due to collisions with vessels.

Map of the Gulf of St. Lawrence indicating the temporary mandatory speed restriction zone
In pink, the temporary mandatory speed restriction zone for vessels over 20 metres

Notice to Shipping
A Notice to Shipping stating the reduced speed to follow and the quadrilateral in which it applies is continually broadcast on maritime radio and disseminated online. MCTS centre officers give systematic reminders of this directive to all vessels in transit far enough in advance for them to reduce their speed before entering the monitored area.

Continuous Monitoring
These officers also continuously monitor vessels' transit speed. They intervene by communicating with vessels that go over the maximum speed limit of 10 knots and by filling out offence reports that are sent to Transport Canada. This department is responsible for reviewing the offence reports received and has the authority to press formal charges against vessel owners if necessary. This new directive was required due to the growing number of right whale carcass sightings during the summer.

The Canadian Coast Guard strictly enforces the new protective measures and works with Transport Canada, the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Fisheries Management Directorate and Science Branch, and the industry to help protect North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species.

Keven Raymond
Canadian Coast Guard

Share | Share on Facebook Share on Twitter