Canadian government modifies North Atlantic right whale protection measures for 2021

·1 min read

FREDERICTON — The federal Fisheries Department will continue efforts this year to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters, but it is making some changes to reduce the impact on the fishing industry.

The government announced today it will still close fishing areas when whales are present, but before prolonging such a closure, authorities plan to step up surveillance to determine whether the whales remain in the area.

Restrictions on ship speeds will be maintained throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while fishing vessels will have an exemption in waters less than 20 fathoms, or 37 metres, deep.

Testing of new fishing gear that would allow whales to break free in the event of entanglement has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, so a requirement for the new gear has been postponed until the end of 2022.

There were no North Atlantic right whale deaths or entanglements in fishing gear in Canadian waters in 2020, but in the previous five years, 25 deaths were recorded.

It is estimated there are only 366 of the right whales remaining in the world.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press