Shipping lanes moved to protect endangered right whales
The lane change came about when Transport Canada submitted a proposal last April to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to move ship traffic lanes in the Bay of Fundy so that they skirt the area where most right whales congregate. The IMO is the United Nations agency responsible for improving ship traffic safety. The Canadian proposal to move the shipping lanes was adopted at the IMO annual meeting of the Marine Safety Committee last December in London, England.
Industry and conservation organizations that have worked with Transport Canada over the past four years on the lane change, applaud the change. Many North Atlantic right whales overwinter and calve in the waters off Florida and Georgia, and most of the whales spend much of the summer and early fall in the Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. “For these whales, spending their summers in the Bay of Fundy has been like having their playground in the middle of a highway,” said Cathy Merriman of World Wildlife Fund Canada. “We congratulate Transport Minister Collenette for taking this important step towards reducing the whales’ risk of collisions.”
“This is a major step for right whale conservation, but we still have work ahead because conservation measures are badly needed along the U.S. east coast from Florida to Maine, to reduce the risk of ship strike throughout the whales’ range,” said Moira Brown, senior scientist with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., and the Canadian Whale Institute in Bolton, Ontario. “Studies show that saving just two females a year can help bring the population back, so this move is critically important.”
The lane-change proposal had widespread support in Atlantic Canada, including the backing of Irving Oil, which employs the largest shipping fleet in the Bay of Fundy. For the past five years, Irving Oil has been active on the right whale recovery team working groups in Canada and the U.S., helping government officials, scientists and environmentalists find practical solutions for the endangered right whale population. The federal government’s Habitat Stewardship Program also provided support for initial research and consultation projects that contributed to the lane change proposal.
“Irving Oil is the largest operator of ships moving in and out of the Bay of Fundy, and we fully support this move to protect the right whales feeding there,” said John Logan, manager of Shipping Operations for Irving Oil. “We have been working with the New England Aquarium for the past five years on the issue of altering the shipping lanes as well as supporting their right whale research in the Bay of Fundy each summer. It took some time to research and find the correct solution, and this looks like it will reduce the chances of ship/whale interaction substantially.”
Since 1997, World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Coastal Studies, with the New England Aquarium, have worked in partnership to support critical right whale research, increase federal funding available for conserving this species, and raise public awareness about threats to its survival. For more information about right whales, visit www.worldwildlife.org, www.coastalstudies.org, and www.neaq.org.