Working Group on Marine Traffic and Protection of Marine Mammals

The simultaneous presence of whales and ships in the St. Lawrence Estuary results in risks of collision which may cause injuries and occasionally prove fatal for animals that are hit. Given the precarious situation of large rorquals in the St. Lawrence such as the blue whale and the fin whale, the loss of a few individuals is a serious threat to the recovery of these species. This situation has brought maritime industry stakeholders and various concerned agencies together to work on developing solutions for lowering the risks.

The Working Group on Marine Traffic and Protection of Marine Mammals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (G2T3M) was formed in 2011 to propose concrete solutions to reduce the shipping traffic-related risks to which marine mammals are exposed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence while allowing for the activities of the Merchant Marine and without compromising safety.

Co-chaired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada, G2T3M is composed of representatives from the following organizations: St. Lawrence Shipoperators, Green Marine, Corporation des pilotes du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Shipping Federation of Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, Marine Mammal Ecowatch Network, St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, Transport Canada, University of British Columbia and Université du Québec en Outaouais.

The risks of whale-ship collisions are calculated while taking into account the cetaceans’ distributions, the known relationship between the ships’ speeds and the probability of mortality of a whale in the event of a strike, and the observed position and speed of ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Thanks to the results of this work, shipping operators adopted voluntary steps to reduce speeds and avoid certain areas with high whale densities. The following map depicts the sectors targeted by the voluntary protection measures.

© Parks Canada


The very first year these measures were applied, 2013, encouraging results were obtained, as the average speeds of ships decreased significantly at the head of the Laurentian Channel. This reduces the risk of mortality in the event of a collision and enhances the protection afforded to marine mammals. These protective measures are in addition to those provided under the Marine Activities in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations.

To learn more:

On the voluntary protection measures published in Notices to Mariners, issued by the Canadian Coast Guard in the spring of 2015 (p. 2 in the Notices to Mariners)

Reduction in Risk of Collisions with Whales Deemed Encouraging

Solid Collaboration to Protect Marine Mammals in the St. Lawrence Estuary

 On Whales Online:

Potential Impacts of Shipping Lane Rerouting on St. Lawrence belugas (2015)

Measures to reduce ship-whale collisions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (in French)

A guide for reducing the risk of whale collisions in the Northwest Atlantic (in French)