Ottawa announces new measures to protect North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

North Atlantic Right Whale

The federal government has announced new measures to protect North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

They have been dying from ship strikes and getting caught in fishing gear.

The well-being of the endangered species is of great concern to Canadians.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson made the comment as experts note there are believed to be only about 400 right whales left in the world.

The new protections will include increased aerial surveillance to try to spot the whales in the gulf and extending speed limits for ships east of the current speed-restriction zone, where vessels will have to reduce speed to 10 knots when a right whale is spotted in the area.

Ships travelling in a buffer zone of up to five nautical miles around these areas will also have to slow down if a whale is seen, a doubling of the previous buffer zone of 2.5 nautical miles.

Smaller ships, those longer than 13 metres, will now also be subject to the speed restrictions, where previously only ships over 20 metres were affected.

Six North Atlantic right whales have died in eastern Canadian waters since early June.