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Ottawa bans ‘pleasure craft’ in Arctic coastal waters, will reopen some national parks as of June 1

Thursday, May 14, 2020 @ 2:17 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

In an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in remote and vulnerable Arctic communities with few medical facilities, Ottawa announced that “pleasure craft” will be prohibited from operating within Canada’s Arctic coastal waters (north of the 60th parallel), as well as in the coastal areas of northern Quebec and Labrador.

The new measures begin June 1, and will remain in place until “at least” Oct. 31, 2020, according to a May 14 announcement from Transport Canada.

Transport Canada defines a “pleasure craft” as a boat, a ship, or any other watercraft that is used exclusively for pleasure and does not carry passengers or goods for payment. Canoes, kayaks, sailboats and motorboats are also included in this definition.

The federal government said the new restrictions will not apply to pleasure craft used by local communities, or used “for essential transportation, for subsistence fishing, harvesting and hunting, or for exercising Treaty Rights.”

In addition to the existing measures implemented for ferries and passenger vessels, the Minister of Transport will issue the Interim Order Respecting Pleasure Craft Restrictions due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Those who fail to comply with the prohibitions set out in the Interim Order could be subject to a penalty of $5,000 per day for an individual, and $25,000 per day for a corporation.

The June 1 ban on pleasure craft in Arctic coastal waters north of the 60th parallel, includes the territorial sea surrounding Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast.

The new prohibition does not apply to:
  • Foreign pleasure craft exercising their right of innocent passage through those waters but such vessels will be required to notify the Minister of Transport 60 days in advance of arriving in Arctic waters, and may be subject to conditions; and
  • Canadian pleasure craft being used on inland lakes and rivers in Canada’s three territories.

The measures follow on those announced March 13 to defer the start of the season for cruise ships carrying 500 or more people, and an April 5 announcement of requirements for ferries and commercial vessels certified to carry more than 12 passengers.

The federal government also announced on May 14 that, starting June 1, it will gradually resume some operations at certain national parks, national historic sites, historic waterways and national marine conservation areas.

The reopening will include access to some trails, day-use areas and green spaces, and some access for recreational boating, as well as the gradual resumption of some field-based ecological and cultural resource protection activities.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change Canada said it will also gradually resume some operations at certain national wildlife areas, including conservation activities, and day-use access for visitors on June 1.