Most ships obeying speed limits set up to protect whales in Gulf of St. Lawrence

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WATCH: Ottawa forces ships to slow down to protect whales – Aug 12, 2017

OTTAWA – Almost 90 per cent of ships that passed through the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the last five months complied with an emergency speed limit to help protect the whales.

In August, Transport Canada imposed a limit of 10 knots on all ships longer than 20 metres after a dozen right whales were found dead in the Gulf, many of them having collided with ships.

The department’s report shows that between Aug. 11 and Jan. 11, the period when the limit was in effect, 4,169 of the 4,711 eligible ships that were spotted in the Gulf were travelling below the mandated speed.

READ MORE: Canadian Coast Guard ship fined $6,000 for speeding in right whale protection area

However, the government only fined 14 of the 542 vessels that exceeded the limit, including cargo ships, cruise ships, ferries and even Canadian Coast Guard vessels.

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Sonia Simard, director of legislative and environmental affairs for the Shipping Federation of Canada, said it’s important to know water and weather conditions at the time the speeds were measured, since factors like currents and waves can have an impact.

A Transport Canada spokeswoman says there will be no hesitation to impose the speed limit again if whales are spotted again in the Gulf this summer.

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