Whales will get
right of way in Fundy
Canada accepts proposal to alter shipping lanes in bay
April 25/02 Chris Morris
The endangered right whale is
being given the right of way in the Bay of Fundy.
Transport Canada said Wednesday it has accepted a
proposal to alter shipping lanes in the bay between New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia. togive the whales a safe, ship-free zone.
Doucet, a Transport Canada spokesman, said fishermen and other interest groups
have yet to be consulted, but it's hoped the new lanes will be in effect by the
summer of 2003.
"We believe it's a proposal which will
create an effective and safe shipping lane while at the same time showing much
greater sensitivity to the whales," Mr. Doucet said.
object of the change, recommended by a group cochaired by Transport Canada, is
to minimize the risk of whale and ship collisions in the Bay of Fundy near New
Brunswick's Grand Manan Island.
Ship strikes are one of
the most common killers of right .whales, who lumber along slowly and can't
quickly get out of the way of a passing ship.
estimated there are only about 350 of the baleen behemoths left, making it the
most endangered large whale species on Earth.
Murison, managing director of the Whale and Seabird Research Station at Grand
Manan, said scientists have plotted and analyzed the movements ''of the whales
for the past 12 years.
She said the whales tend to
congregate within a fairly compact, oval-shaped area near Grand Marian, right
in the middle : of an outbound shipping lane.
eliminate ships from going through that oval, you reduce the potential for
collision by 80 per cent," she said.
The North Atlantic
right whale was hunted to the brink of extinction for its oil and baleen, a
flexible form of whalebone. It was called the "right" whale because it was
slow-moving, rich in blubber and easy to catch.
Murison said the whales enjoy lolling in groups on the surface.
She said she's seen as many as 45 whales socializing on
the surface of the bay and if a freighter had plowed into them, the loss would
have decimated the fragile population.
"They're intent on
what they're doing and they don't necessarily pay attention to what is
happening around them," Ms. Murison said.
As well, she
said there's some question as to whether the whales can hear approaching
Mr. Doucet said that under the proposal, the Bay of
Fundy lanes will be moved about three nautical miles to the east, towards the
Nova Scotia coast and away from Grand Manan.
pleased," said Ms. Murison, a member of the advisory group that recommended the
lane change. "I'm also pleased to see everyone working together so well.
"It's -really nice to see people from very different
walks of life get together and come up with a solution very quickly."
The advisory group, appointed a year ago, included
representatives from government, environmental groups, fishermen and the
Right whale calves and their mothers
have started trekking toward Canadian waters after ending their birthing season
off Florida and Georgia. They spend their summers feeding in the plankton-rich
waters of the Bay of Fundy.
Between 10 and 12 whales are
born most years in their traditional , breed grounds off the southeastern U.S.
coast. The challenge now for the baby whales is to survive in an area that sees
massive bulk carriers and transport vessels pass through it
Ms. Murison said she knows of three right
whales that have been killed by ship strikes in the Bay of Fundy.
"One washed up on Grand Manan in 1992. It had a really
large bruise on one side. Then two ended up on the Nova Scotia coast, one had a
broken jaw and the other had a broken vertebrae."
only thing that could do that is collision with something very large and in the
Bay of Fundy, that's a vessel."