Ottawa, Ontario – The Government of Canada continues to take action to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale. For the second year in a row, there have been no reported deaths of North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters. However, with recent estimates that only 336 North Atlantic right whales remain in the world, the Government of Canada continues to work with scientific experts, industry, Indigenous and non-Indigenous harvesters, environmental groups, and the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect and support the recovery of this species.
In 2021, the Government of Canada took the following measures:
- To help protect the whales from entanglements in fishing gear, Fisheries and Oceans Canada adjusted the times of fishing seasons and continued to implement seasonal and temporary fishing area closures when and where whales were detected. In 2021, approximately 38,325 square kilometres (an area almost seven times the size of Prince Edward Island) was closed to fishing based on right whale detections. In this overall total, 26,764 square kilometres was closed for the season.
- To help protect the whales from collisions with vessels in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Transport Canada continued to implement vessel traffic management measures, including speed restrictions and a restricted access area, that covered approximately 72,000 square kilometres. These measures aimed to reduce collision risks to the whales from vessel traffic over the course of the season, without jeopardizing the safety and security of mariners. This year, there was an over 99.9% compliance rate with the mandatory vessel traffic measures.
The Government of Canada uses a variety of tools to monitor and detect North Atlantic right whales, such as aerial surveillance, at-sea surveillance, and underwater acoustic technologies. Fishery officers will continue to watch for North Atlantic right whales in our waters throughout the year through aerial surveillance. Given recent detections of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Transport Canada is asking mariners to remain vigilant and to continue, voluntarily, to maintain a maximum speed of 10 knots over ground whenever safe to do so.
In 2021, at least 120 individual North Atlantic right whales were identified in Canadian waters, representing approximately one third of the estimated global population.
“For the second year in a row, our measures have prevented any North Atlantic right whale deaths. This is largely thanks to the continued hard work and collaboration of harvesters, who have adapted practices in the interest of this iconic species. Working together, we’ll continue to protect and restore Canada’s marine mammals and the ecosystems they call home.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“Our Government’s coordinated efforts with our many partners has resulted in no known whale mortalities in Canadian waters in the last two years. I would like to thank the marine industry for helping protect this iconic species. Each year, we must remain vigilant and continue to adapt our measures to the best available science on how to protect these whales when they are in our waters.”
The Honourable Omar Alghabra Minister of Transport
In 2021, one new North Atlantic right whale entanglement was reported in Canadian waters. This was Canada’s first report of an entanglement sighted in Canadian waters since 2019. Partners under Canada’s national Marine Mammal Response Program located the whale and attached a satellite tag but were unable to disentangle the whale. The whale has since shed some of the gear on its own.
Six Government of Canada aircraft logged over 2,800 hours of surveillance and up to six Slocum underwater gliders and seven Viking Buoys provided acoustic information on the location of the whales in near real-time.
For the 9,470 vessel movements monitored in the Gulf of St. Lawrence management zones this year, a compliance rate of over 99.9% with mandatory vessel traffic management measures was achieved.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is currently working with harvesters-through the $20 million Whalesafe Gear Adoption Fund-to help them transition to Whalesafe gear by 2023.
Canada’s 2022 measures for protecting North Atlantic right whales will be announced in the new year.