Speeders in whale slow-zone caught by Canada

Published on
January 22, 2018

Transport Canada says 542 ships broke speed restrictions imposed this summer in an effort to mitigate whale-ship collisions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

The agency instituted a 10-knot speed limit on ships over 20-meters in length operating in the western Gulf on 11 August. The restrictions were put in place after seven North Atlantic right whales were found dead in Gulf waters.

Necropsies showed that four of the whales died of blunt force trauma from collisions with ships. The speed limit was seen as a way to reduce whale-ship collisions. The speed restrictions were lifted on 11 January, 2018 to allow better winter navigation and may be re-introduced in the summer when the right whales return from their southern migration. 

Only 14 vessels were fined for breaking the speed limit: a cruise ship, a Coast Guard ship, a naval vessel and 11 tankers and container ships. 

Transport Canada says 34 cases are “under review” and 44 other cases are “pending review.” The other 450 infractions have been closed due to lack of evidence. 

Ship speeds were monitored by the Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services, which tracked ships in real-time, and then advised Transport Canada’s Marine Safety and Security division of non-compliance. A “compliance verification process” reviews the vessel’s track based on Automated Identification System data using time, latitude and longitude, and speed over ground. If enough evidence exists, a safety inspector can be dispatched to the ship to collect additional data, including the logbook.

The minimum fine is CAD 6,000 (USD 4,800, EUR 3,930) per ship, with penalties rising as high as CAD 25,000 (USD 20,000, EUR 16,375), depending on the vessel’s speed and whether it has prior infractions. 

Reporting from Eastern Canada

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