Transport Canada issues warnings and fines to owners of boats that violate killer whale distance rules
Transport Canada said it issued 158 warnings and imposed five fines totaling just over $ 24,000 for vessels violating distancing rules that protect endangered southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea.
The federal agency responded Thursday to a report by an environmental coalition that said whale-watching and fishing boats “routinely” ignore the government’s 400-meter buffer zone.
The group, led by Straitwatch and the David Suzuki Foundation, said there was little enforcement to protect orcas, whose population has fallen to 73 after two deaths this summer.
“Transport Canada takes all alleged violations of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Order very seriously and is working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, the RCMP and the Canadian Coast Guard to plan and implement a regime. compliance and enforcement to ensure effective enforcement, ”he said in a statement.
The 158 warning letters she sent to boat owners in 2020 will be part of the vessel’s compliance history for five years, Transport Canada said.
Those who have received warning letters and violate the order may be subject to a fine or other enforcement action. Under the Canada Shipping Act, a penalty can result in fines ranging from $ 250,000 to $ 1 million and / or imprisonment for up to 18 months on conviction.
Transport Canada imposed the first administrative monetary penalty in 2020 and has imposed four more so far in 2021, for a total of $ 24,750.
The agency did not name any vessels or individuals or break down the individual fine amounts.
Several investigations are underway which could lead to additional sanctions, he said.
The amount of the fine is based on the seriousness of the violation, Transport Canada said, as each situation is assessed on a case-by-case basis. The agency said it is also educating boaters through various print and online materials, social media and outreach to boating associations.
Straitwatch said in its report that enforcement of distancing rules by authorities is lacking, particularly on the Canadian side.
The Washington State Department of Fisheries and Wildlife was present when orcas residing in the south were in US waters about 20% of the time. Canadian law enforcement vessels were present an average of 2% of the time, according to the report.
In the Canadian waters of the Salish Sea, whale watching operators are obligated to forgo southern-resident killer whale watching under the Sustainable Whale Watching Agreement with Transport Canada. They are allowed to observe passing orcas within 200 meters.
However, Straitwatch said that over seven days in 2020, Canadian operators were observed more than 30 times monitoring southerners in Canadian waters for more than 30 minutes and, in some cases, for more than 60 minutes.
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