November 15, 2018 2:48 pm
Updated: November 15, 2018 2:50 pm

Transport Canada lifts speed restrictions implemented to protect North Atlantic right whales

A ballet of three North Atlantic right whale tails are all that is visible of this surface active group (SAG) in Cape Cod Bay, near Provincetown, Mass., Thursday, April 10, 2008.

FILE - Stephen Savoia/The Canadian Press/ AP

The Government of Canada has lifted mandatory speed restrictions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that Ottawa originally put in place to protect a species of endangered whales.

The Department of Transportation says that this will allow ships to operate safely during the winter months.

READ MORE: Fisheries minister meeting with fishing industry, scientists to discuss right whale protections

The speed restrictions — which applied to vessels 20 metres or longer — limited travel to a maximum of 10 knots in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Meant to preserve a dwindling population of North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes, the restrictions were implemented on April 28, 2018, coming only months after at least 18 right whales were killed in Canadian and U.S. waters in 2017.

The Canadian Government says they are unaware of any North Atlantic right whale deaths in Canadian waters in 2018 and that they will continue to ask vessels to slow down voluntarily should a whale be spotted near the shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says at least three deaths have been recorded off the American coast this year.

But a report card released last week by the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC) indicates just how dire the situation for the endangered whale species is.

The report says that the best estimates indicate by the end of 2017 there were only 411 North Atlantic right whales left in the rapidly declining species.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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