Report | February, 2021
The Edge of Extinction: Protecting North Atlantic Right Whales
North Atlantic right whales are on the edge of extinction. At least 32 North Atlantic right whales died between 2017 and 2020, 21 of them in busy Canadian waters. More recently, a two-month-old calf was found dead on a beach with cracked ribs and a broken skull from a vessel strike.
Immediate action must be taken to prevent their extinction. One clear way right whales can be protected is by slowing vessels down. Of the whales recently killed in Canada, the cause of death was known for 10, and eight of them were due to vessel strikes. It’s clear there is no time to waste in making slowdowns mandatory.
Using Global Fishing Watch data, Oceana Canada tracked vessel speeds in the Cabot Strait from April 28 to June 15, 2020 and October 1 to November 15, 2020. During this time, vessels longer than 13 metres were asked to slow down to 10 knots. Oceana Canada found that two-thirds of vessel transits exceeded 10 knots. Additionally, more than 40 per cent exceeded 12 knots, significantly increasing the risk of killing a right whale.
As a result of these findings, Oceana Canada is urgently calling on Transport Canada to make the slowdown zone in the Cabot Strait a mandatory measure.