The Canadian Wildlife Federation and World Wildlife Fund both have words of praise for action taken Friday by the federal government to protect endangered right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

At a news conference Friday morning, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that ships over 20 metres in length will have a speed limit of 10 knots through an area of the gulf where whales have been spotted.

"We're seeing the government take real and defined action on the factors that are likely having the greatest effect on these whales," Sean Brilliant, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, told CBC News.

World Wildlife Fund president David Miller also supported the action.

"WWF-Canada is pleased that the Government of Canada has taken measures to slow ships in areas where endangered North Atlantic right whales are known to frequent," said Miller in a news release.

Shipping companies coming onside

Since the beginning of June at least 10 right whales have died in the gulf, and ship strikes are suspected as a major factor. There are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales left in the world.

Brilliant added he was pleased to see some shipping companies already coming onside with the new rules, but not surprised.

"In the past the work that's been done in the Bay of Fundy shows that these shipping organizations are often very willing to adhere and make changes that will reduce their impact and I'm not surprised to see that's the case here as well," he said.

Both Brilliant and Miller said there is more work to be done to protect right whales, particularly in connection with entanglement in fishing gear.

With files from Laura Chapin