2021 fishery management measures
North Atlantic right whales
Canada has a suite of fisheries measures and initiatives in place in Atlantic Canada and Quebec to prevent entanglements in fishing gear.
Temporary and season-long fishing area closures:
- In areas subject to our closure protocols (the dynamic zone), if a right whale is visually or acoustically detected, a defined area around the position of the detection (approximately 2000 km2) will be closed to non-tended fixed gear fisheries, including lobster and crab, for 15 days.
- New: This year, a right whale will need to be visually or acoustically detected again in the closed area during days 9-15 of the closure before an extension is triggered.
- In the Bay of Fundy and Critical Habitats in the Roseway and Grand Manan basins, if a whale is detected again during days 9-15, a temporary closure of an additional 15 days will be applied.
- In the Gulf of St. Lawrence (including around Anticosti Island, the Cabot Strait, as well as the Straight of Belle-Isle), if a whale is detected again in a closed area during days 9-15, a season-long closure will be implemented; the area will remain closed until November 15, 2021.
- If a whale is not detected again in a closed area during days 9-15, the area will re-open to fishing after day 15.
- Two flights with no right whale detections will continue to be required before an area can re-open to fishing. If flights are unable to go out during days 9-15 (e.g. due to poor weather conditions), the area will remain closed until two flights can safely take place to indicate whether whales are likely no longer in the area.
- Outside the dynamic zone, 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:
- Non-tended fixed gear fisheries, including snow crab, rock crab, and lobster, 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 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 fishing gear:
- Gear marking requirements are required for all non-tended fixed gear fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The gear marking requirements identify region, fishery, and, for lobster and crab fisheries only, the specific fishing area.
Mandatory reporting for lost gear:
- Licence holders in all commercial fisheries are required to report lost gear.
Mandatory reporting of interactions between vessels or fishing gear and marine mammals:
- Any accidental contact between a 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.
- Authorizing rope-less gear trials in closed areas.
- Updated: In 2020 it was announced that harvesters would be required to implement weak rope or breaking points by the end of 2021 to help whales self-release if they became entangled. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many harvesters were unable to conduct on-the-water tests for safe and effective ways to implement this requirement. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will now work with harvesters, fishery by fishery, throughout 2021 and 2022 to:
- Implement weak rope or weak breaking points by the end of 2022.
- Implement requirements for maximum rope diameters, sinking rope between pots and traps, and reductions in vertical and floating rope after 2022.
Continued monitoring and reporting:
- A variety of tools is used to detect whales visually and acoustically, including aircraft and vessel surveillance, as well as detection through hydrophones (underwater microphones), which are either stationary or mounted onto mobile underwater gliders.
- Multiple agencies are working together to detect right whales, share data, and monitor active fishing areas (including closed fishing areas).
- Conducting scientific research to better understand whales and predict their whereabouts.
- Maintaining science survey efforts, including in some 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 regard. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will also continue its work on prey availability and factors affecting it.
Engagement with stakeholders:
- New: A technical working group of harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials will meet regularly throughout the year to discuss ongoing right whale fisheries management issues in Canadian waters.
- An annual North Atlantic right whale roundtable meeting with stakeholders takes place each November to help inform the fisheries management measures for the following season.
Combatting marine litter: Ghost gear
As part of our ongoing efforts to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, DFO has been working to retrieve lost fishing gear, known as ghost gear, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Department has 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.
In 2019, we announced the $8.3 million Ghost Gear Fund to assist fish harvesters, environmental groups, Indigenous communities, the aquaculture industry, and coastal communities to find and retrieve harmful ghost gear from the ocean and dispose of it responsibly so that it can be recycled back into the economy. The program will also support fish harvesters looking to acquire market ready gear technologies to reduce gear loss.
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