right-of-way in Fundy
BY ALISON AULD
One of the marine
world's most endangered mammals has won a major protection with the creation of
new Canadian shipping lanes that will force vessels to steer clear of known
The International Maritime Organization
approved a unique proposal by Ottawa to amend traffic routes in the Bay of
Fundy, where the rare North Atlantic right whale wages a seasonal fight to
avoid deadly collisions with massive ships and tankers.
The new shipping lanes will force ships to divert several
kilometres around the zone in a bid to reduce the number of ship strikes, one
of the leading causes of death for the slow-moving mammals.
"This is going to make the Bay of Fundy waters a much
safer haven for the right whale," Maurice Landry of Transport Canada in Moncton
"It will take away some of the vessels
from the right whale density."
Canada received final
approval earlier this month after months of discussions with the marine
organization, which oversees marine safety.
initiative, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, will force
tankers to divert around the zone, an area where dozens of the rare whales
gather in the summer to feed. It will go into effect July 1, 2003, just as the
marine giants are working their way up from the eastern United States to settle
into a season of feasting and caring for their young.
Officials with Transport Canada, which has worked on the
proposal with a variety of affected groups for the last two years, hope the
changes will reduce the potential for ship strikes by as much as 80 percent.
The current lanes cut across the whales' summering
grounds near New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island, where whales including mothers
and their young calves travel from their breeding grounds off Florida to feed
on the bay's rich source of plankton.
initiative was endorsed in July by several seafaring countries, including the
United States, Panama, the Bahamas, Germany and Sweden.
Several shipping companies and a group representing
international tanker owners have supported the move, which would require a'
slight course diversion for vessels travelling into and out of the area.
Experts who track the right whales say the measure should
help the struggling population which, after years of ship collisions, gear
entanglements and intense hunting, has been reduced to about 350. That has made
it the most endangered large-whale species on Earth.
"This is an important measure in respect to whales and
shipping in reducing the risk of collision," Jerry Conway of the Department of
Fisheries and Oceans, which also worked on the proposal, said in Halifax.
"This is the first country that has ever initiated change
in traffic lanes to protect any sort of marine mammal."
Fishermen have also backed the revised route even though
it will push large tankers into their traditional fishing grounds. "We are
losing a bit of ground, but it will be a minimum," Hubert Saulnier, a gill-net
fishermen said from his lobster boat in the bay.
fact is you have to do something and this seemed to be the best thing."