'A big question mark' for cruise ship industry amid worries of more cancellations
'We absolutely need some new information about what will come up in 2018 and 2019'
More cruise ships could cancel stops in the Gulf of St. Lawrence during this season if the federal government keeps new speed restrictions in place, says the head of a cruise industry group.
We absolutely need some new information about what will come up in 2018 and 2019.- René Trépanier
Three cruise lines have cancelled 10 visits to Charlottetown so far this season, after new speed restrictions to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales slowed their schedules.
"Having discussed with some of the cruise lines, there could be some more cancellations," said René Trépanier, executive director of Cruise the St. Lawrence Association.
The two ports that have been most affected are Charlottetown and Gaspé, Que., because of their location close to the restricted speed zone, Trépanier noted, adding the cruise lines "had no choice but to cut some ports."
Cruise lines he's been speaking with expect the low speed zone to be reduced in size or end soon, but Trépanier worries if that doesn't happen, more scheduled stops could be lost.
"For us, it's a big question mark," he said.
"We're totally for any measures to protect the whales," he added. "But we believe there could be a good mix between economic interests and conservation interests — that's the name of the game for the moment."
Also worried about next year
Trépanier's group has been asking Transport Canada and DFO what the plan is for the coming seasons, but haven't been getting concrete answers, he said.
"We absolutely need some new information about what will come up in 2018 and 2019," he said, pointing out cruise lines draw up their itineraries several years in advance.
Cruise ship stakeholders have another meeting coming up in a couple of weeks, Trépanier said.
He hopes a number of different mid- to long-term measures, including audio tracking, reporting and observers could be put in place to reduce the area of speed restrictions.
The Port of Charlottetown does not believe it will have further cancellations, business development manager Corryn Clemence said.
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With files from Laura Chapin