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2021 fisheries management measures to protect North Atlantic Right Whales in Canadian waters

March 30, 2021 - This notice to fish harvesters provides the details of the 2021 fisheries management measures to protect North Atlantic right whales (NARW), as announced by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on February 18, 2021.

The management measures will take effect in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as soon as the snow crab fishery opens in Area 12. In other areas where fall/winter fisheries are in progress, measures apply if NARW are detected and non-tended fixed gear fisheries and trap fisheries (such as lobster, crab and other species) are operating.

New - Retrigger period for temporary and season-long closures in 2021

New in 2021, a subsequent NARW visual or acoustic detection that would occur during days one to eight of the 15 day closure period of a grid will not trigger a prolonged closure. NARW will need to be visually or acoustically detected again during days 9 to 15 of the closure period before the closure is prolonged.

Refer to Annex 1 for additional details on how the temporary closure protocol applies to the Bay of Fundy dynamic area / Roseway Basin Critical Habitat area, and refer to Annex 2 for additional details on how the temporary and seasonal-long closure protocols apply to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Update - Exploring new fishing technologies and methods

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many harvesters were unable to test safe and effective ways to use weak rope or breaking points to help whales self-release if they became entangled. DFO will continue working with harvesters, fishery by fishery, throughout 2021 and 2022 to implement:

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 area of Roseway Basin), closures will continue to 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.

Shallow water protocol lines

Provisions for the 10 and 20 fathom shallow water protocol lines continue to apply. Details of the shallow water protocol are provided in Annex 3.

Lobster Fishing Area 38 pilot project

The pilot project for Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 38, which runs from November 2020 to June 2021, was renewed for a third season to provide an opportunity to monitor the viability of alternative approaches to management measures and gear modifications on a smaller scale. Once completed, further analysis of the effectiveness of the measures will help determine whether it could be applied on a longer-term basis, and if elements of it could apply in other fisheries.

Pre-season surveillance

As in previous years, special attention will be given to the opening of fisheries occurring later in the season. Pre-season surveillance flights will be considered over some fishing areas where existing closures could have significant impact on upcoming fisheries, as done in 2020 for Crab Fishing Area 19 and Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34, to name a few. If required, flights will take place in the weeks prior to the opening of the impacted fishery. If no whales are detected, any closed areas will be re-opened. If whales are detected again, closures will remain in place.

Other continued measures related to the protection of NARW in Canada for 2021

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will also continue its comprehensive efforts from previous years, such as :

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.

Visit Information for workers in the fisheries industry related to COVID‑19 to find out more.

Map showing areas subject to the temporary fishing closure protocol on the east coast.
The above map has no legal bearing and is provided for visual reference only.

For more information

Please visit the Interactive map on the latest right whale observations for regular updates.

Annex 1 – Bay of Fundy and Roseway Basin critical habitat - 2021 temporary closure protocol - Fisheries management measures to protect NRAW

The Bay of Fundy dynamic area and the Roseway Basin critical habitat area are subject to the temporary closure protocol.

A temporary closure is triggered when one or more NARW are confirmed by either visual or acoustic detection in the Bay of Fundy dynamic area and/or in the Roseway Basin critical habitat area. The temporary closures are in force for a minimum period of 15 days from the date of the NARW detection, including the gear removal period.

Licence holders are provided an advanced 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.

In the Bay of Fundy dynamic area and Roseway Basin critical habitat area:

  • NARW need to be visually or acoustically detected again during days 9 to 15 of a temporary closure period before a closure is prolonged;
  • if a NARW is visually or acoustically detected again during days 9 to 15 of a temporary closure period, each applicable grid becomes temporarily closed for an additional 15 days;
  • if no whale is detected during days 9 to 15 of a temporary closure period, the grids will re-open to fishing after day 15. However, two qualifying flights with no NARW detections are required before an area can re-open to fishing. If flights are unable to be conducted during days 9 to 15 (e.g. due to poor weather conditions for example), the area will remain closed until two flights can safely take place. If a NARW is detected after day 15, the closure protocol will restart at day one (1).

The temporary closure protocol is implemented using the same fishing grid system as in the past. The defined closure area includes the immediate grid of the detection, plus up to eight of the surrounding grids that are within the dynamic or critical habitat areas.

The shallow water protocol (SWP) continues to apply to the temporary closure protocol (details of the SWP are provided in Annex 3).

NARW related management measures apply to all non-tended fixed gear fisheries and trap fisheries (such as lobster, crab and other species).

Annex 2 – Gulf of St. Lawrence - 2021 temporary and season-long closure protocols - Fisheries management measures to protect NARW

The Gulf of St. Lawrence dynamic area is subject to the temporaryand season-long closure protocols. The temporary closure protocol comes into force before the season-long closure protocol.

A temporary closure is triggered when one or more NARW are confirmed by either visual or acoustic detection in the Gulf of St. Lawrence dynamic area. The temporary closures are in force for a minimum period of 15 days from the date of the NARW detection, including the gear removal period.

Licence holders are provided an advanced 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.

In the Gulf of St. Lawrence dynamic area:

  • NARW need to be visually or acoustically detected again during days 9 to 15 of a temporary closure period before a closure is prolonged;
  • if a NARW is visually or acoustically detected again during days 9 to 15 of a temporary closure period, each applicable grid becomes seasonally closed until November 15, 2021;
  • if no whale is detected during days 9 to 15 of a temporary closure period, the grids will re-open to fishing after day 15. However, two qualifying flights with no NARW detections are required before an area can re-open to fishing. If flights are unable to be conducted during days 9 to 15 (e.g. due to poor weather conditions for example), the area will remain closed until two flights can safely take place. If a NARW is detected after day 15, the closure protocol will restart at day one (1).

Closure protocols (temporary and season-long) are implemented using the same fishing grid system as in the past. The defined closure area includes the immediate grid of the detection, plus up to eight of the surrounding grids that are within the dynamic or critical habitat areas.

The shallow water protocol (SWP) continues to apply to the temporary closure protocol (details of the SWP are provided in Annex 3). The season-long closure protocol continues to be implemented in waters deeper than the 20 fathom shallow water protocol line only.

NARW related management measures apply to all non-tended fixed gear fisheries and trap fisheries (such as lobster, crab and other species).

Annex 3 – Shallow water protocol - Fisheries management measures to protect NARW

The provisions for the 10 and 20 fathom shallow water protocol lines apply to the dynamic areas of the Bay of Fundy and of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

Temporary closures are only implemented in waters less than the 10 and 20 fathom shallow water protocol lines in the following circumstances:

  • 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 is limited to waters deeper than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol line only. (Fish harvesters are allowed to continue to fish in waters shallower than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol line.);
  • there is a confirmed detection in waters shallower than the 10 fathom shallow water protocol line, the nine grid closure extends 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 is limited to waters deeper than the 20 fathom shallow water protocol line.

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