Whales in the mail—but, so far, not in the dynamic navigation channels

With Mamie Allright, from left, Cruise the Saint Lawrence's Hélène Théberge, René Trépanier and Karine Blais With Mamie Allright, from left, Cruise the Saint Lawrence's Hélène Théberge, René Trépanier and Karine Blais PHOTO: Cruise the Saint Lawrence

In recent weeks cruise line planners have been finding whales in the mail. Mamie Allright, a plushy, arrived accompanied by a cartoon that conveys a serious but encouraging message.

Highly endangered right whale

Mamie represents the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale, a species that returns to the Gulf of St. Lawrence every year to feed on the plentiful plankton and small crustaceans called copepods that are found there in abundance.

Dynamic management policy

Over decades, hunting, entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes have diminished the North Atlantic right whale to fewer than 500. Last year measures were put in place to create a fixed 10-knot speed restriction in a large area of the Gulf with two navigation channels north and south of Anticosti Island where ships can travel at normal speed, unless right whales are spotted there. In that case, temporary mandatory speed caps are put in place.

In developing this dynamic management policy, the Canadian government took into consideration proposals from an industry working group that included scientists and cruise line representatives, among others.

According to Cruise the Saint Lawrence—which has been active in this matter and is the mastermind behind Mamie Allright—the policy is working.

Avoiding strikes, maintaining speeds

In 2018, ships were able to operate at normal speeds in the designated channels 80% of the time. As it turned out, 'No family member of mine was ever spotted in the channel,' Mamie Allright says in the cartoon, which adds that enhanced detection in the channels and better geographic boundaries for the speed reduction zone while make navigation much easier while helping protect the endangered whales.

Eighty Mamies have gone out, sparking lots of reaction.

Gaspé, Sept-îles, Baie-Comeau severely impacted

The purpose of mailing whales around the world is to urge the cruise lines not to cancel port calls in the St. Lawrence, said René Trépanier, executive director of Cruise the Saint Lawrence. This has severely affected Gaspé, Sept-îles and Baie-Comeau, even though the dynamic-management channels allowing normal speeds are available.

'That dynamic zone has been slowed to 10 knots only 20% of the time in 2018, so most of the time ships could go at their regular speed,' Trepánier noted.

He urged cruise line planners to get in touch with the association for the latest information on the navigation channels.

Posted 20 February 2019

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review