Bay of Fundy Shipping Lanes
In 1982, the Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Scheme (shipping lanes) was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and implemented by Transport Canada in 1983 to organize vessel traffic through an area used extensively for fishing. The shipping lanes are mandatory for all vessels over 20 m in length. At that time, little was known about the distribution of right whales in the Bay of Fundy and the threat of vessel strikes to their numbers. Between one-third to one-half of the known right whale population has been seen every year in the lower Bay of Fundy since 1980. A portion of the Bay of Fundy favoured by right whales for feeding and socializing is transected by the mandatory shipping lanes used by large vessels including tankers, containers ships, cruise ships and bulk carriers.
1992, 1995 and 1997
Three right whale carcasses were found in the lower Bay of Fundy in these years. Necropsies performed by veterinarians determined the cause of death in each case to be the result of a vessel strike. These deaths triggered a series of actions and stewardship measures to reduce the potential for vessel and right whale interactions in Canadian waters.
1993 to present
Radio operators at "Fundy Traffic" (Marine Communications and Traffic Services, Canadian Coast Guard) informs ships transiting the Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Scheme (shipping lanes) of the presence of right whales from June through November. Fisheries and Oceans Canada designates the Grand Manan Basin Right Whale Conservation Area 2.
Caution Mariners Pamphlet distributed in eastern Canada by harbour pilots and local port authorities to inform commercial and recreational mariners of the presence of right whale in Canadian waters, their designated conservation areas and measures to be taken to avoid vessel strikes of right whales 3.
An industry workshop on the right whale ship strike issue was held in Saint John, New Brunswick and led to the formation of a vessel-whale working group. The working group, co-chaired by Moira Brown (Canadian Whale Institute/Center for Coastal Studies) and Garry MacCaull (Transport Canada Marine Safety), was composed of biologists, representatives from the shipping, fishing and whale watch industries, and non-government organizations *.
1999 and 2000
Right whale sighting data collected by the New England Aquarium in the Bay of Fundy from 1987 through 2000 was analyzed by Dr. Robert Kenney to determine the density of right whales relative to the Bay of Fundy shipping lanes. Probability analyses of the right whale sighting data and vessel data in the Bay of Fundy, performed by Dr. Christopher Taggart and his graduate students at Dalhousie University, showed the overlap between right whales and the shipping lanes and established a new location for the lanes to reduce the relative probalility of a right whale being struck by a ship by 80%. The Canadian Right Whale Recovery Plan identifies ship strikes as a key element hindering the recovery of the species 4. The Vessel Whale working group prepares the ecological justification to amend the location of the Bay of Fundy shipping lanes away from high concentrations of right whales. The proposed amendment is presented for comment to the marine industry and the public in eastern Canada.
The members of the Canadian Right Whale Recovery Team and the regional and national Canadian Marine Advisory Councils support amending the shipping lanes to reduce the probability of ship and right whale interaction.
Maritime Office of Transport Canada Maritime Safety held further public consultations with the fishing industry to insure that amending the location of the shipping lanes would not adversely affect other species or fisheries.
Transport Canada, Marine Safety submitted a proposal to Subcommittee on Safety of Navigation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to amend the Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Scheme.
The proposal is approved by the Subcommittee and forwarded to the IMO Marine Safety Committee.
The proposal was adopted by IMO Marine Safety Committee. Transport Canada has six months to implement the measure. The Canadian Hydrographic Service began modifying the relevant nautical charts.
July 1st 2003
As adopted by IMO, the amended Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Scheme is implemented. In August and September 2003, researchers reported that less than 2% of right whale sightings were recorded in the new shipping lanes, whereas 30% would have been in the lanes if they had not been amended.
* Vessel Whale Working group: Canadian Whale Institute/Center for Coastal Studies (M. Brown, co chair); and Transport Canada Marine Safety (G. MacCaull, co chair); Furcan (M. Long); F.K. Warren (S. Perry); Saint John Port Authority (P. Turner); Atlantic Pilotage (P. Gates); Marine Communication and Transportation Services (Fundy Traffic, F. Webster and C. Middleton); Irving Oil (R. Goddard and J. Logan); Grand Manan Fishermen's Association (K. Sonnenberg); Maritime Fishermen's Union (H. Saulnier); and World Wildlife Fund (C. Merriman).
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