Ottawa announces measures to address whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

The federal government says vessels of 20 metres or more in length will be ordered to slow down in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as it tries to protect right whales who frequent the waters.

Ten of the endangered mammals have died in the gulf since early June with preliminary necropsy reports indicating the whales died of either entanglements with fishing gear, or from blunt trauma caused by ship collisions.

Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Marc Garneau were in Pointe-du-Chene, N.B., Friday where they announced temporary measures aimed at preventing further whale deaths.

The ministers say vessels travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island, will be required to slow to a speed of 10 knots — a measure to be enforced by Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Ships that don't comply with the speed limit will be subject to a financial penalty of up to $25,000.

The measure will remain in place until the whales have migrated from the areas of the gulf that pose the most concern.