2020 fisheries management measures to protect North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – May 8, 2020 – This notice to fish harvesters is issued in accordance with the 2020 fisheries management measures to protect North Atlantic right whales (NARW) in Canadian waters, as announced by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada on February 27.
Season long closures – new in 2020
The Gulf of St. Lawrence, in its entirety, will now be a dynamic area subject to a season long closure protocol, as well as temporary closures when NARW are detected. The information in this section addressed season long closures only. (Temporary closures are detailed in a subsequent section.)
A season-long closure will be triggered if a NARW is detected in a grid that is already subject to a temporary closure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The detection, either by visual sighting or hydrophones (underwater microphones), must be on a subsequent day of the original detection and within a 15 day period of the original detection.
The season-long closure extent in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will include :
- the immediate grid of the NARW detection that is already subject to a temporary closure,
- plus up to eight of the surrounding grids that :
- are already subject to a temporary closure
- are within the dynamic area, and
- are in waters deeper than the 20 fathom shallow water protocol line.
Once a season long closure is implemented, the affected grids will remain closed until November 15, 2020.
Season-long closures will continue to be implemented using the same fishing grid system used for temporary closures, and will apply to non-tended fixed gear fisheries, crab trap fisheries and lobster trap fisheries.
The static zone closure introduced in the Gulf of St Lawrence in 2018 and then modified in 2019, is no longer valid.
Temporary closures - new areas in 2020
The Bay of Fundy in its entirety, including the Grand Manan critical habitat area, will now be a dynamic area subject to temporary closures.
The Gulf of St Lawrence dynamic area (in its entirety) and the Roseway Basin critical habitat area remain subject to temporary closures.
A temporary closure is triggered when one or more NARW are detected, either by visual sighting or hydrophones (underwater microphones), in areas that are subject to temporary closure protocols. The temporary closures will be in force for a minimum period of 15 days from the date of the NARW detection, including the gear removal period. The re-opening of temporary closed grids cannot take place until specific aerial surveillance criteria are met. In the Bay of Fundy and the critical habitat areas of Roseway Basin and Grand Manan, the 15 days closure period will be restarted if NARW remain in the area.
Closures will continue to be implemented using the same fishing grid system as in the past. The closure extent will include the immediate grid of the detection, plus up to eight of the surrounding grids that are within the dynamic or critical habitat area. The temporary closures will only be implemented in waters deeper than the 20 fathom shallow water protocol line, unless a detection is triggered in shallower waters (refer to the Shallow Water Protocol Lines section below for further details).
The areas subject to temporary closures (referred to as the dynamic or critical habitat zones) are subject to automatic closure protocols for non-tended fixed gear fisheries, crab trap fisheries and lobster trap fisheries. License holders will be provided an advance notice of a minimum of 48 hours to remove their fishing gear from the closing grids. Fish harvesters are requested to voluntarily slow down when retrieving gear in the closed areas.
Shallow water protocol lines
The provisions for the 20 and 10 shallow water protocol lines will apply to the dynamic areas of the Bay of Fundy (including Grand Manan Critical Habitat Area) and of the Gulf of St Lawrence.
Temporary closures will only be implemented in waters less than the 20 and 10 fathom shallow water protocol lines in the following circumstances:
- if there is a confirmed detection in waters shallower than the 20 fathom but deeper than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol lines, the extent of the nine grid closure will be limited to waters deeper than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol line only. (Fish harvesters will be allowed to continue to fish in waters shallower than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol line.);
- if there is a confirmed detection in waters shallower than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol line, the nine grid closure will extend to the shoreline.
When there is a confirmed detection in waters deeper than the 20 fathom shallow water protocol line, the extent of the nine grid closure will be limited to waters deeper than the 20 fathom shallow water protocol line.
Additional Technology to Detect NARW
In 2020, in addition to visual sightings from aircraft and vessels, acoustic underwater technology (hydrophones) will also be used to confirm the presence of NARW and to support management decisions.
Lobster Fishing Area 38 pilot project
The pilot project for Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 38 will continue through the 2020 season. Fish harvesters in LFA 38 will continue to implement measures similar to those applied in the United States (i.e. removing lines in the water and applying gear modifications based on whale presence). The pilot project will be reviewed in 2020 to determine whether it could be applied on a longer-term basis, and to assess if elements of it could apply in other fisheries.
Crab Fishing Area 19 – pre-season surveillance
Surveillance flights will be flown over Crab Fishing Area (CFA) 19 in the weeks prior to July 1, 2020. If no whales are detected, any closed grids within CFA 19 will be re-opened. If whales are detected, the season-long closure protocol will apply.
In waters outside of the dynamic and critical habitat areas
In waters outside of the dynamic and critical habitat areas (meaning outside of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy and critical habitat areas of Grand Manan and Roseway Basin), closures will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Special consideration will be given for detections of three or more NARW, or a mother and calf NARW.
Additional measures related to the protection of NARW in Canada for 2020
As previously announced, a mandatory gear marking color scheme for fishing ropes is being implemented in 2020 in all of Eastern Canada. It allows to differentiate between Canadian and United States entanglements and will help to improve Canadian fisheries management measures.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada will also continue its comprehensive efforts from previous years, such as :
- Maintaining focused surveillance on the water, under water and in the air to detect whales;
- Continuing to monitor vessel locations and movement to ensure compliance with the measures;
- Maintaining measures to minimize the amount of rope in the water and to more effectively track rope and buoys;
- Maintaining mandatory reporting for lost gear and interactions with marine mammals; and,
- Supporting industry trials of innovative fishing technologies, including authorizing the use of ropeless fishing gear in some closed areas this year, and other methods to prevent and/or mitigate whale entanglement.
Throughout 2020-21, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will be working with industry, fishery by fishery, to identify gear solutions for preventing injury to NARW. Many innovative approaches to addressing these areas of gear modification were discussed during the February 2020 Gear Innovation Summit in Halifax, N.S. These measures may include:
- a requirement for non-tended fixed gear fisheries to include weak rope or weak breaking points, to become mandatory by the end of 2021; and,
- requirements for maximum rope diameters of 5/8 inches, sinking rope between pots and traps, and reductions in vertical and floating rope, to become mandatory after 2021
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - Information for industry
Canadian fisheries and aquaculture sectors provide the world with sustainably-sourced, high quality, high value, fish and seafood.
Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is committed to supporting our fisheries and aquaculture industry during these difficult times. The Government of Canada is taking the necessary steps to ensure that you can continue to operate safely and effectively and we will continue to keep you informed of the latest developments.
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