Action taken against shipping companies in Gulf of St Lawrence

23rd Jan 2018

A North Atlantic right whale photographed by ORCA volunteers during a 2017 Saga cruise

Canadian authorities have taken action against 14 ships that have been found to breach emergency speed restrictions in the Gulf of St Lawrence, floating regulations put in place to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The region is under strict limitations on vessel speed in order to reduce the risk of vessels striking North Atlantic right whales in an area that in recent years has seen the species main source of food, copepods, make the area their new summer home.

Canada's public broadcaster reported the fines last week, with three cruise ships amongst those issues with fines and a further 78 vessels still under investigation.

ORCA's team aboard the Saga Sapphire visited the Gulf of St Lawrence during the Canada in the Fall cruise last September. As well as catching the charity's first ever glimpse of the species, the volunteers were also called upon during the passage of the Gulf to support the captain and crew in spotting cetaceans to help minimise the risk of impacting on marine life in the area.

At the time, Master of the Saga Sapphire, Captain Burgess said: "We met with the ORCA staff early on in the cruise as we were keen to set up a communications link and for them to let us know if they spotted any whales in case we had to alter course to avoid them."

"Apart from the keen eyes of our Bridge Watchkeepers we were very pleased to have additional "spotters" in the Gulf of St Lawrence. A speed restriction of less than 10 knots had been imposed to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale and we’re delighted that ORCA spotted one of these rare species. We’re always keen to support the work that ORCA do and have many cruises planned for 2018 with wildlife teams on board."

You can read the report from this sensational cruise and find out about the other species the team spotted here.