$400 Million for 400 right whales?

by JohnAdams1776 on November 12, 2017 - 8:17pm

$400 Million for 400 Whales?

The CBC article listed below deals with the announcement of 400 million dollars in federal funding to help save the right whale population of the St. Lawrence. The article highlighted the government’s plan to fulfill the duty to consult by working with industry leaders, local conservationists, First nation’s leaders from eastern Canada, as well as scientists, to determine the best methods for protecting the whales. However, a conflict of interest has arisen as many business are worried about the impacts on their income if limits are posed on boat speeds or fishing equipment.  The article also indicated how the government is taking a neo-liberal approach to protecting the whale. For example, the government is relying on partnerships with conservation groups, scientists, as well as industry groups. The snow crab industry’s commitment to finding ways to reduce the number of traps is prove of this. Furthermore, the government is expecting that public pressure will punish those who would rather pay the fines than follow the rules and push responsible actors towards voluntary speed reductions in areas with greater whale concentration.

I found this article failed to address the importance of the whale in either cultural or economic terms. Indeed, one might wonder why the government feels it necessary to spend such a large amount on conserving the whale while at the same time hurting the fishing and shipping industries in the gulf. One concern I have is that the government seems to be preparing for the implementation of new polices before next summer that will the activity on the water. Yet, as there has already been reports of people breaking the current policies, I wonder if implementing new rules will really help especially since monitoring the St. Lawrence is quite the task. Of course those that are caught will be punished by both the regulatory authorities and the public. On the other hand the government could use substantive policy instruments to encourage the gradual modification of the shipping industry to reduce the noise they create which is well known to harm whales. Reversing the trend of shipping becoming dominated by larger and fewer ships, or by requiring quieter propellers are two ways to accomplish this. Although quieter propellers are slower which might hurt the shipping industry’s bottom line. Ultimately successful change in my opinion will depend on how much the greater public views the right whale blight as an important issue since the various stakeholders will likely not be able to reach an effective compromise as the competing economic and conservation/cultural interests are too divergent. The media has a key role to play in public awareness when it comes to environmental issues. In my mind though I feel this issue may be moving towards stage 4 of the issue attention cycle as we have realized the significant cost of saving the whale and I myself as a taxpayer wonder if the 400 million would not find better use in combatting global warming since it is effecting all life.



Mackinnon, B. (2017, November 9). Feds to consider using $400M fund, innovation prize to save North Atlantic right whales. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/right-whales-dominic-leblanc...