Right whales 'top of mind' for coming P.E.I. cruise ship season

As Port Charlottetown looks ahead to the 2018 cruise ship season, it is regularly consulting with Fisheries and Oceans Canada about right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

10 cruise ship visits cancelled last year

Charlottetown is expecting 94 cruise ships in 2018. (CBC)

As Port Charlottetown looks ahead to the 2018 cruise ship season, it is regularly consulting with Fisheries and Oceans Canada about right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The gulf is not a regular habitat for the whales, and their arrival last summer took everyone by surprise. Several whales died in ship collisions, and Ottawa imposed a speed limited in the gulf to protect them.

As a result, 10 cruise ship visits to Charlottetown were cancelled, because the ships didn't have time to make the stops.

"It's top of mind for everyone. The restrictions in August were put in place relatively overnight, so we were in a bit of a situation last season where we had to adjust on the move," said Corryn Clemence, business development manager for Port Charlottetown.

"With the planning leading into this season, we're a little better educated on potentially what could be happening with speed restrictions again next summer. The cruise lines have had that time to adjust accordingly."

Port Charlottetown is expecting a record cruise season in 2018, with 94 visits scheduled.

Clemence said it is difficult to predict what will happen with the whales, but she believes the cruise lines will be in a better position to adjust schedules this year without opting for cancelling stops.

Some ships made shorter stops than usual on P.E.I. last year, she said, and that may happen again this season.

With files from Laura Chapin