Chart of the Bay of Fundy - violet depicts the original separation zone
associated lanes; orange depicts the proposed shift; green connotes the
heaviest area use by right whales in summer. Chart adapted from the
Canadian Hydrographic Service, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans 2002.
Shift of Shipping Lanes May Help Right Whales.
The International Maritime Organization
(the IMO is the United Nations agency that has responsibility for the safety of
shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships) is considering a
proposal to amend the shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy to protect right whales
in a prime feeding ground. The federal agency’s (Transport Canada) proposal
marks the first time the IMO has amended a traffic separation scheme for marine
mammals. PCCS Senior Scientist Dr. Moira Brown is leading the joint U.S.-Canadian
effort to move the shipping lanes just over four nautical miles to the east – a
critical shift out of the heart of known right whale sightings in the bay.
During the summer of 2002, the IMO Sub-Committee on Safety and Navigation
approved a proposal submitted by Transport Canada that successfully outlined why
the shipping lanes should be moved, and where best to move them. In December,
the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee is expected to adopt the measure and once
the Canadian government updates its shipping charts, the new regulations would
go into effect as early as next summer.
By overlaying right whale sightings within the Bay of Fundy over the last
fifteen seasons of research with current navigational charts, the need for the
shift was apparent to all shareholders involved in the process, from researchers
to Irving Oil, the bay’s largest operator. “We needed to do something to reduce
the potential for interaction between ships and whales,” said Brown. The Bay of
Fundy hosts the largest supertanker port for crude and refined oil products
between Louisiana and Saint John, New Brunswick as well as one of the highest
concentrations of right whales between June and October. During the past ten
years, the deaths of at least three right whales have been attributed to
collisions with large vessels.
The proposed lane shift would decrease the
likelihood of further ship strikes, one of the leading causes of human-related
mortality in right whales, by decreasing ship/whale interaction. Data for the
project was collected and analyzed collaboratively by researchers from PCCS, the
New England Aquarium, Dalhousie University, Cardiff University and the
University of Rhode Island.
This conservation act for right whales demonstrates that people from many walks
of life can work together successfully to help make a big difference for
endangered species,” said Brown. “The fact that this conservation action was
produced in the absence of any legislative or regulatory obligation in Canada
speaks volumes about the dedication of all those involved.” In recognition of
this work, Dr. Brown received a Visionary Award from the Gulf of Maine Council.