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Ottawa to force ships to slow down to prevent whale deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence

Ottawa to force ships to slow down to prevent whale deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence
From CBC - August 11, 2017

The Canadian government is implementing atemporary mandatory slowdown for vessels of 20 metres or more in length to address the deaths of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Vessels travelling in the western part of the Gulf,from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island, will be required to reduce their speed to 10 knots,Minister of Transport MarcGarneauannounced Friday at anews conference at thePointe-du-ChneWharfin southeastern New Brunswick.

The slowdown takes effect immediately and will remain in place until the endangered whales migrate out of the areas of concern, saidGarneau.

Officials believe 10 knots will lower the probabibility of collisions, particularly fatal collisions, he said.

The situation will be assessed "on an ongoing basis," with the help of aerial surveillance, said Garneau.

The government will also askships under 20 metres in length to voluntarily slow down in the relevant area.

"We have a responsibility to ensure our wildlife and precious marine resources are protected for future generations."

The measure will be enforced by Transport Canada inspectors and the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and TrafficServices.

Vessels that do not comply face an administrative monetary penalty of $6,000 to $25,000.

Ten North Atlantic rightwhaleshave died in the gulf sinceJune 7.Two othershave washed up dead in the Masshachusetts area in recent weeks.

Preliminary necropsy reports on some of the gulf deaths suggest ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement are possible causes.

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard DominicLeBlancsaid he expects a final report by mid-September, and it will be made public.

Only about 500 North Atlantic right whales are left in the world, according to fisheries officials.

Marine mammal experts have called on the government to take immediate steps to prevent further deaths.

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