HOME MINKE RIGHT FINBACK SEI HUMPBACK ORCA BLUE
SUPPORT ETHICS TALES SONGS IMAGES GUESTBOOK LINKS SHARKS

Biologist praises decision to give whales right-of-way

BY MAC TRUEMAN
Telegraph-Journal
December 23/02

   A whale biologist in Massachusetts is praising Canada for "taking the lead" to preserve the world's dwindling number of North Atlantic right whales.
   Dr. Moira Brown, a right whale specialist with the Centre for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., said she was elated at news last week that the International Maritime Organization has approved Ottawa's plan to push the Bay of Fundy shipping lane a few kilometres closer to Nova Scotia.
   The move, which will take effect July 1 just before Fundy's right whale stock is due to arrive for the summer, will reduce by 80 per cent the number of these animals struck by ships in the Bay of Fundy, she said.
   But she warned that saving the right whale from extinction will ultimately depend on protecting it from shipping in all of the animal's four other known grazing areas along the eastern seaboard of North America between New Brunswick and Florida.
   "They're not as far along as Canada is yet. Canada is taking the lead," she said.
   "It's the right thing to do;" said John Logan, manager of Irving Oil's chartered oil tanker fleet, which represents the biggest segment of largevessel traffic in the Bay of Fundy.
   Four years ago when the right whale's crisis hit the news, the Irving company went to the New England Aquarium in Boston, to join it in working to reduce the whale collisions.
   Irving is the biggest single user of the Port of Saint John, and "half the right whales in existence are out there in the summer," Mr. Logan said.
   The oil company "donated $80,000 US or so to them in the last few years, to do the research and find out where the whales are," Mr. Logan said.
   It has been under the New England Aquarium flag that Ms. Brown has been going every summer to Lubec, Me., to study the right whale in its summer feeding grounds. Mr. Logan has gone out with her team in the research boat.
   What has impressed Ms. Brown the most with the Fundy shipping change is that scientists, conservationists, the shipping industry, fishermen and government all got together to design the new route, with nobody forcing them to do it.
    "I'm just so encouraged because legislation obliging Canada to do so," she said.
   Shipping lanes are the internationally designated highways for commercial vessels. The Bay of Fundy change will add four kilometres to the route to Saint John, and 12 miles to pathways leading to Eastport, Me., and Bayside, near St. Andrews. But it will, take ships around a 500-squarekilometre patch of sea lying between Grand Manan and Digby where 80 per cent of visiting right whales feed in the summer, she said.
   "They may get here a little later than they did before," Mr. Logan said of the Irving tankers, "and they may miss the odd tide, but we look at this as a good thing to do for. the whales, and the right thing to do."
   Ships put the right whale uniquely at risk because the slow and lumbering giant grazes on plankton "like a cow in the field," Ms. Brown said.
   The best plankton areas are deep basins closest to shore, which usually are also the lanes that ships seek out, because these are the safest places to navigate. That's why all five grazing areas are in the middle of traffic zones for ships, and dead whales are regularly found there.
   The other four areas include the Roseway Basin, 70 kilometres south of the southern tip of Nova Scotia. Two of the regions are off the coast of Massachusetts. The calving area lies near Jacksonville, Fla.
   "That's another area that has incredible shipping traffic, both commercial and military, and dredging activities to keep the deep river channels open," Ms. Brown said.
   Some of the U.S. areas don't have enough navigable space to move shipping lanes away from the whales. Scientists are looking at other solutions, such as forcing ships to slow down.
   In Boston, shipping and port officials "are concerned that restrictions would be so onerous as to affect the economic viability of the port. Shippers might go elsewhere to the nearby Port of New York and the Port of Portland," Ms. Brown said.
   If the new Bay of Fundy pathway is any significant help in saving the right whale, it will take several years for the effect to show up in the Coastal Centre's annual surveys, she said. But in the meantime, "by not seeing dead whales on the beach, by not seeing floating whales and by not seeing whales with injuries from interactions with ships - that's how we'll know it's working."

HOME MINKE RIGHT FINBACK SEI HUMPBACK ORCA BLUE
SUPPORT ETHICS TALES SONGS IMAGES GUESTBOOK LINKS SHARKS