2019 fishery management measures
The Government of Canada is taking all necessary actions to help protect Canada's endangered whales. With an additional year of scientific analysis, fishing and marine transportation activity and feedback we now have more information available to inform our decision-making for 2019.
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North Atlantic right whales
The suite of measures and initiatives in place in Atlantic Canada and Quebec remains focused on preventing vessel strikes and entanglement. This includes:
Season-long closure area in Atlantic Canada and Quebec
- A season-long area closure (referred to as the static zone) for snow crab and lobster fisheries (and all other all non-tended fixed-gear fishing) will be in place effective April 28, 2019 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
- This year’s season-long closure has been adjusted to cover the highest concentration of whales observed during the peak of the fishing season in 2018. While the area for 2019 is a different size and shape (about 63% smaller and more elongated North-to-South than in 2018), the overall protection area remains the same. Any area no longer captured by the season-long closure now fall within the area where temporary closures can occur.
Temporary closure areas in Atlantic Canada and Quebec when right whales are present
- The areas subject to temporary closures (referred to as the dynamic zone) are subject to automatic closure protocols for non-tended fixed gear fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec – including anywhere in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (including around Anticosti Island, the Cabot Strait, as well as the Straight of Belle-Isle) and critical habitats in the Roseway and Grand Manan Basins.
- If one or more right whales are observed in these areas, a defined area around the geographic position of the whale sighted will closed for 15 days. Closures could extend beyond 15 days if whales remain in the area.
- Outside the Gulf of St. Lawrence and critical habitats, closures will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with special consideration for sightings of 3 or more whales, or a mother and calf pair.
Provisions for waters shallower than 20 fathoms
- For 2019, snow crab and lobster fisheries (and all other non-tended fixed-gear fisheries) conducted in waters less than 20 fathoms in depth will be subject to temporary closures only if a right whale is observed in those waters.
- If one or more right whales are seen in waters between 10 and 20 fathoms in depth, a temporary closure would be put in place to between 10 and 20 fathoms. Harvesters would then be required to move gear close to shore but would be allowed to continue to fish in the areas less than 10 fathoms deep.
- If one or more right whales are seen in waters less than 10 fathoms deep, a temporary closure would apply to the defined area around the sighting, regardless of depth, and would effectively close the area to the shoreline.
Effective tracking of rope and buoys
- Sequentially marked buoys and fishery-specific gear-marking, aiming to phase in mandatory gear marking for all fixed-gear fisheries by 2020.
Mandatory reporting for lost gear
- Licence holders in all fixed-gear fisheries will be required to report lost gear.
Mandatory reporting of interactions between vessels or fishing gear and marine mammals
- Any accidental contact between marine mammal and a vessel or fishing gear must be reported.
Exploring new fishing technologies and methods
- Supporting industry trials of “whale safe” gear technologies that minimize or eliminate the risk of entanglement to whales and evaluating pilot projects using scientific expertise.
- Hosting a Gear Innovation Summit later this year, which will include a stream focused on technological solutions to mitigate ghost gear.
Continued monitoring and reporting
- A variety of tools to detect whales visually and acoustically, including aircraft and vessel surveillance, as well as detection through hydrophones and glider technologies.
- Multiple agencies working together to detect right whales, share data, and monitor active fishing areas (including closed areas).
- Conducting scientific research to better understand whales and predict their whereabouts.
- Maintaining science survey efforts with an emphasis on areas not yet adequately surveyed with the purpose of improving knowledge on right whale distribution in Canadian waters. Additional deployment of passive acoustic devices will also allow for data to be collected that will help in this regards. Also, DFO will continue its work on prey availability and factors affecting it.
Combatting marine litter: Ghost gear
As part of our ongoing efforts to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, we’ve been working to retrieve lost fishing gear, known as ghost gear, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We’ve also been working with industry on an ongoing basis to encourage fish harvesters to undertake ghost gear removal initiatives in conjunction with our fishery officers. We are also working to expand current mandatory reporting requirements for lost gear to more fisheries.
Southern Resident killer whales
To protect Southern Resident killer whales, fishery management measures have been put in place in British Columbia, including:
- Area-based closures in key foraging areas for recreational and commercial salmon fisheries, (rules for other fisheries in these areas will remain unchanged) which will take effect after the Chinook conservation non-retention measures end and will remain in place through the end of October.
- A voluntary “no fishing zone” around killer whales in three enhanced management areas that are known important foraging spots for Southern Resident killer whales: the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Gulf Islands, and the mouth of the Fraser River. When killers whales are spotted within 1 km, all commercial and recreational fishers would be expected to temporarily stop all fishing activities.
- Interim sanctuary zones, off the South-west coast of Pender Island and south-east end of Saturna Island, will also limit fishing activity and vessel traffic from June 1 until October 31, subject to exceptions including emergency vessels and vessels engaged in indigenous food, social and ceremonial fisheries.
These conservation reductions will help restore Chinook populations, which have dramatically decreased in recent years, and enhance the availability of Chinook for Southern Resident killer whales to eat.
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