The federal Fisheries Department shall continue to put in efforts this year o protect endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Canadian waters, but it is making slight changes to reduce the impact on the fishing industry.
On Thursday, the government announced that it will close the fishing areas when the whales are present, but before prolonging such a closure, the authorities plan to step up the surveillance to determine whether the whales remain.
When a right whale is detected in an area, it remains closed to lobster and crab fishers for 15 days. Starting this year, a whale would have to be detected again between the 9th and the 15th days for that closure to be extended.
The news was welcomed by Jean Lanteigne, the general manager of the Federation RegionaleAcadienne, which represents the crab fishermen in Northeastern New Brunswick.
Lanteigne said in an interview that it is good news and they think that the argument has been heard by the department.
Lanteigne further said that it doesn’t make sense to close an area for the entire season if the whales were just briefly passing through. He said that they can follow the path of the whales more closely now and it is after one-fourth year of their observation that they now have a better understanding of where they want to go.
He further added that the fishing season is short and is eight to ten weeks, which means that if they close for 15 days, then that’s already for a long time.
In the Bay of Fundy and the Roseway and Grand Manan basins, if a whale is detected during the nine to the fifteenth day, the area shall remain close for additional 15 days. But in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a second such sighting might result in a season-long closure.
This year the government’s monitoring program will include multiple aircraft, a drone, on-the-water vessel surveillance, and underwater hydrophones.
In 2020, no deaths of North Atlantic right whales or entanglements in the fishing gear were being reported. But in the previous five years, 25 deaths were recorded and it is estimated that there are only 366 of the animals remaining in the world.
Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement that last season is the proof that by w0orking together they can effectively protect the North Atlantic right whales while also continuing to put the high-quality, sustainable seafood on dinner plates in Canada and around the world.
The restrictions being imposed on the ship seeds shall remain in place throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence while the fishing vessels will have an exemption in waters less than 20 or 37 meters deep.
Reportedly the government is also expanding its consultation and a technical working group of harvesters, department staff, and right whale experts shall meet up throughout the year. Moreover, an annual roundtable meeting shall take place each November.