'It's an economic impact': 10 cruise visits to Charlottetown cancelled

A number of cruise lines have cancelled the Charlottetown part of their journey because of speed restrictions imposed by the federal government in the Gulf of St. Lawrence following a rash of right whale deaths.

Cancellations follow new speed restrictions put in place to help protect right whales

Viking Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are three of the major corporations that have scratched Charlottetown from their itinerary. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Three cruise lines have cancelled the Charlottetown part of their journey because of new speed restrictions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence intended to protect endangered right whales.

Ten cruise visits have been cancelled so far, said Corryn Clemence, business development manager with the Port of Charlottetown.

As a result, she estimates about 8,000 fewer cruise passengers will visit downtown Charlottetown in the coming weeks.

"I'm confident that everyone recognizes the economic impact that it has," she said. "While we're doing everything we can do ensure the safety of these whales, I think that everybody's optimistic that we'll find a long-term solution that works for everyone."

It's estimated that about 8,000 fewer cruise passengers will visit downtown Charlottetown in the coming weeks, according to Corryn Clemence, business development manager with the Port of Charlottetown. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Right whale deaths in gulf

In light of right whale deaths this summer, the Canadian government recently restricted ships 20 metres and longer to slow down to 10 knots, or about 18.5 kilometres per hour, to help prevent further deaths to the endangered species.

I'm confident that everyone recognizes the economic impact that it has.- Corryn Clemence

"In order for them to maintain the scheduled itineraries they've booked, it's difficult for them, with that restricted speed zone, to make all of these scheduled calls on time," Clemence said.

"It has no direct reflection of our relationship or ratings with the cruise line, it's just an unfortunate situation. We know that the cruise lines want to come here."

Gaspe, Que., has also lost cruise ship visits, she said.

'Tourism is a big deal'

Many restaurants, souvenir shops, taxis and tours cater to the thousands of cruise ship passengers.

"[It has] a really big impact on our store," said Kristina Dowling, an employee at Nellies P.E.I. Local Crafter. 

"Tourism is a big deal and it's too bad that it's going to take away from our shoulder season where we hope to, you know, make some money," she added.

Cory Arseneau, a chef at Peake's Quay Restaurant said that business will hurt a bit, but he understands that the change needs to be made to accommodate the whales.

"It's a tough business," he said. "You're trying to get as many people in the season as you can, but you kind of adapt and move on."

'We have key stakeholders that are involved with the cruise ships and it does affect their bottom line. It's an economic impact,' said Kevin Mouflier, the CEO of Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. (CBC News)

'It's an economic impact'

This is a federal and provincial issue, explained Kevin Mouflier, the CEO of Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. 

"We have key stakeholders that are involved with the cruise ships and it does affect their bottom line. It's an economic impact," he said.

It's important to get the main players around the table to look at ways to "rectify" the issue without causing harm to the whales, said Mouflier.

'Numbers still strong'

Sydney, N.S., however, added several unexpected cruise ship visits to their port schedule.

Despite the lost calls, Clemence said Charlottetown is still "pacing well ahead of last year."

"Our numbers are still strong," she said.

With files from Laura Chapin, Tom Steepe, Sally Pitt