A temporary measure to protect North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence put into effect Aug. 11 has no consequences on sealift schedules in Nunavut, according to the two companies servicing the territory.
Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc. (NSSI) and Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping (NEAS) are both heeding the directive from two federal ministers to reduce speeds, a directive that applies to vessels of 20 metres or more in length. The penalty for non-compliance is $25,000.
“Canada takes the protection, conservation, and recovery of endangered species very seriously. The recent deaths of several North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are extremely concerning,” stated Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau and Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Minister Dominic LeBlanc in a news release.
“Speed must be reduced to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Quebec north shore to just north of Prince Edward Island.”
Both NNSI and NEAS have ships that service from Quebec through Iqaluit, all the way to Cambridge Bay and the communities in between.
“No effect on sealift operations,” stated general manager for Desgagnes Transarctik Waguih Rayes.
That company is the managing partner of sealift operations, while Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, Sakku Investments Corporation and Kitikmeot Corporation are partners.
Rayes added there have been minimal delays of a few hours per voyage.
“We fully compensate during the subsequent steaming days of the voyage.”
NEAS’s Suzanne Paquin elaborated.
“Our NEAS vessels require three hours more per passage or six hours per voyage,” she said.
NEAS is a Nunavut Inuit majority-owned enterprise, with 51 per cent of the voting shares held by local Nunavut Inuit companies, including Merkosak Construction Ltd. and Isaac (Ike) Haulli, according to its website. The remaining 49 per cent are held by NEAS Inc., owned jointly by Makivik Corporation, and Transport Nanuk Inc., a joint venture between Logistec Corporation and The North West Company.
Neither company reports having seen any right whales. Any sightings must be recorded and reported.
According to the federal news release, right whales have been increasingly present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent years. Transport Canada inspectors, with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services, are enforcing the precautionary measures until the whales have migrated from the areas of concern.
“Our government has already taken action and will continue to ensure that measures are in place for the protection of this species and the safety of mariners using these waters,” stated Garneau and LeBlanc.
NSSI expects to complete over 28 voyages this shipping season, from June to mid-October, while NEAS has 16 to 17 voyages planned from June to mid-November.