Marine mammals protection
Collisions with marine mammals
Collisions between ships and marine mammals are a common phenomenon. Whales usually react spontaneously to danger. However, in certain situations (e.g. while sleeping, feeding, coupling, or at rest), they are less alert and so do not always have the time to move. A ship strike may then hurt, or even kill them.
The waters of the Saguenay-St-Lawrence Marine Park are home to a native population of belugas and also attract a large variety of other marine mammals that migrate to these waters for food, especially between the months of May and October.
Several species, such as the blue whale, are especially vulnerable, so that the death of only a few individuals may hinder the species’ recovery.
In 2011, the Working Group on Marine Traffic and Protection of Marine Mammals (G2T3M), a collaboration between scientists, government authorities and the marine industry, defined several voluntary speed reduction zones within the St-Lawrence estuary. In effect since June 1st, 2013, these measures apply to merchant vessels and cruise ships transiting between Pointe à Boisvert and Cap de la Tête au Chien to prevent collisions with whales (see map below). They include a caution area where increased vigilance is recommended, a slow down to 10 knots or less area, as well as an area to be avoided because it is known to be frequently used by blue whales, an endangered species.
The risk of death or serious injury in case of a strike is 31% if the ship navigates at a speed of 10 knots. The risk increases to 90% at a speed of 17 knots.
The implementation of these speed reduction measures has decreased collision risks by 40 %.
A Mariner’s Guide to Whales in the North Atlantic
This guide was developed by the Marine Mammal Observation Network (ROMM) in collaboration with the Shipping Federation of Canada with the goal to collect and synthetize maritime traffic information, as well as to document the distribution of a dozen of marine species living in the waters of the St-Lawrence and the Canadian East Coast. The guide also includes maps of high risk cohabitation areas. These maps indicate, for each area, the likelihood of meeting a giant cetacean. The guide is meant to be an information and educating tool for mariners to encourage them to be more vigilant when navigating inside these areas to avoid strikes with whales.