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Feds outline 2021 measures to protect North Atlantic right whales

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also establishing a new technical working group for harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials

February 19, 2021  by CM Staff

North Atlantic right whale as part of NOAA’s Earth Is Blue series. PHOTO: NOAA Gray’s Reef NMS via Wikimedia Commons

OTTAWA — The Government of Canada remains announced the 2021 measures to help protect North Atlantic right whales from interactions with fishing gear and vessels in Canadian waters.

“In 2020, we saw no North Atlantic right whale deaths or entanglements in Canadian waters, which is why we are building on those measures to ensure this trend continues,” said Bernadette Jordan, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “Last season is proof that by working together, we can effectively protect North Atlantic right whales while also continuing to put high quality, sustainable seafood on dinner plates in Canada and around the world.”

To help prevent entanglements with fishing gear, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is building on measures by continuing to close fishing areas wherever and whenever North Atlantic right whales are present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy, and Roseway Basin Critical Habitat, but the Department will improve its efforts to determine if right whales remain present in closed area before deciding to extend a closure.

This change will maintain protection for the whales while also ensuring that harvesters are not prevented from accessing lucrative fishing grounds. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also establishing a new technical working group for harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials.

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To help prevent collisions with vessels, Transport Canada will be re-implementing its 2020 season measures, including a restriction on vessel speed throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to protect areas where whales are detected, and issuing fines to those who are not compliant with these measures. In addition to these measures, Transport Canada will introduce the following modifications this year:

  • the mandatory restricted area in and near the Shediac Valley will be refined by size, location, and duration to better protect right whales when they are anticipated to be present in greatest numbers;
  • the speed limit exemption in waters of less than 20 fathoms will be expanded to all commercial fishing vessels.

These combined measures with the work already underway by the Government of Canada on extensive right whale monitoring and surveillance program with aerial and on-the-water vessel surveillance, underwater stationary and mobile hydrophones, will further protect our marine environment and the navigational safety of all mariners.