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2023 Transport Canada restricted area activated to protect North Atlantic right whales in Canada

Transport Canada (TC) – [June 21 2023, 18:30 EST] – This notice to fish harvesters is issued in accordance with the 2023 Transport Canada restricted area, as previously announced on March 31st, 2023, to protect North Atlantic right whales (NARW) in Canada. This notice is to alert fish harvesters that this restricted area is activated via Navigational Warning on 21 June, 2023. See below for information on the restricted area as previously announced.

Note: Vessels must follow Navigational Warnings outlining the speed restrictions. The Interim Order for the Protection of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2023 enables the issuance of Navigational Warnings (NAVWARNs) imposing speed restrictions or navigation restrictions.

Speed restriction zones are described in monthly Notices to Mariners (NOTMARs), which are published by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The status of these zones is broadcasted through NAVWARNs, which are published by the CCG’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) Centres.

Please refer to the latest NAVWARN issued by the CCG-MCTS for all speed restrictions currently in effect.

Restricted area

In the summer months, an important proportion of the total North Atlantic right whale population gathers for feeding and surface activity near the Shediac Valley. Since this makes the North Atlantic right whale more susceptible to vessel collisions, a mandatory restricted area will be implemented in and near the Shediac Valley and will come into force once 80% of the grids within the restricted area is closed to fishing for the season as per the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' right whale closure protocol. The restricted area will be lifted once the North Atlantic right whale detections decrease. The size and location of the area is determined based on historical detection data of North Atlantic right whales. All necessary details can be found in the Interim Order. Triggering and lifting of the restricted area will be communicated to mariners through a NAVWARN and notice to fish harvesters.

Vessels above 13 m in length (LOA) will be required to:

The following exceptions will apply to the restricted area. Vessels listed can travel through the area at not more than 8.0 knots over the ground:

The following vessels can travel through the restricted area at a speed over 8.0 knots, but below 10.0 knots over the ground as required by the static speed restriction zone:

Please refer to schedule 1 for the coordinates of the restricted area.

Inclement weather exception

Mariners will be notified in advance via a NAVWARN should the speed restriction status change in any zone or area, due to inclement weather.

Within any zone or area that is not subject to a speed restriction due to adverse weather conditions for example, mariners may proceed at a safe operational speed. Mariners are however encouraged to take into consideration the potential for their vessel striking North Atlantic right whales when considering a "safe operational speed" during navigation.

*Non-excepted vessels are still prohibited from transiting through the restricted area.

Map of the Gulf of St. Lawrence

The following map shows:


Map showing the 2 static zones (north and south), the 5 dynamic shipping zones (A, B, C, D and E), the seasonal management areas, the restricted area, the trial voluntary slowdown zone and the 36.57 m (20 fathom) shallow water protocol line.

This map is for visual representation only and is not to be used for navigation or enforcement.

NAVWARN broadcasts

The CCG-MCTS issues and publishes NAVWARNs:

Mariners must ensure they have accurate and up-to-date information about the protection of the North Atlantic right whale, as in all applicable NOTMARs and NAVWARNs.

For the North Atlantic right whale speed restriction, the NAVWARN that is currently in effect will be provided to vessels subject to the Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations or the Eastern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations:

Outbound vessels will receive NAVWARNs

  • at Calling-in-Point 10 (St-Laurent); or
  • upon a departure downstream from the Quebec pilot station (including the Saguenay River, Chaleur Bay, Miramichi Bay, etc.)

Inbound vessels will receive NAVWARNs

  • when a clearance to enter Canadian waters is granted

Vessels in transit will receive NAVWARNs

  • at the last reporting point prior to entering the speed restriction area; and/or
  • at 10 nautical miles prior to entering the speed restriction zone

For those vessels not subject to the above-mentioned regulations, vessel operators are required to monitor broadcasts by the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) network for the most up to date information. For marine radio frequencies and broadcast times, information may be found in the Radio Aids to Marine Navigation publication.

Aids to navigation

The Canadian Coast Guard is currently testing virtual Automatic Identification System (AIS) aids to navigation (AIS AtoN) in specific areas. These aids notify mariners of a dynamic shipping zone subject to a speed restriction, per NOTMAR 819(T)/2016.

Each dynamic shipping zone is delimited by 4 virtual AIS AtoN, which can be displayed on a ship's navigation equipment, such as:

  • Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS);
  • Electronic Chart System (ECS);
  • RADAR;
  • Minimum Keyboard Display (MKD); and
  • Electronic Nautical Chart (ENC).

The Canadian Coast Guard broadcasts the virtual AIS AtoN only when a speed restriction is in effect in one or more testing zones.

Mariners must select the virtual AIS AtoN symbol to view a message such as "SectA1 Spd Lim 10 kt." This message refers to a speed restriction in effect for a specific zone.

Note: this system is not the primary way we communicate this information.

Compliance and enforcement

You must comply with the NAVWARNs broadcasted and published by the Canadian Coast Guard related to any Interim Order made pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, aimed at regulating the navigation for the purposes of protecting the North Atlantic right whales.

If you do not comply with instructions in the NAVWARNs or in the Interim Orders, you could face:

  • administrative monetary penalties up to a maximum of CAN $250,000; and/or
  • penal sanctions under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than CAN $1,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months, or to both.

If your vessel appears to have violated the speed restriction, Transport Canada Marine Safety inspectors will review all information provided through AIS and seek an explanation from the master.

Report a North Atlantic right whale sighting

If you see a North Atlantic right whale that is entangled, injured or dead, please report it to your nearest Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre, or as follows:

Southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Marine Animal Response Society
Telephone: 1-866-567-6277

Newfoundland and Labrador
Whale Release and Strandings
Telephone: 1-888-895-3003

For the Québec Sector
Marine Mammal Emergencies
Telephone: 1-877-722-5346

For additional information

Please visit the Interactive map on the latest right whale observations for regular updates.

Transport Canada Whale Coordinator
Stephanie Talbot

Schedule 1: restricted area


Restricted area coordinates
Points Position*
North Latitude (N) West Longitude (W)
1 48° 31.8' 063° 39.6'
2 48° 24.72' 063° 17.88'
3 47° 18.84' 064° 10.8'
4 47° 27.18' 064° 30.72'
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