2020 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 2020.
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.
Season-long closure protocol in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
- A new season-long closure protocol will be in place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as soon as snow crab fisheries open for spring 2020. Unlike a pre-set (static) season-long closure area, season-long closures will be applied to areas where whales are detected to be aggregating.
- If whales are detected in the same area more than once during a 15-day period, a designated area will close until November 15, 2020.
- Hydrophones (underwater microphones) and visual sightings from vessels and aircraft will trigger season-long and temporary closures.
Temporary closures 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), the Bay of Fundy, and critical habitats in the Roseway and Grand Manan Basins.
- If one or more right whales are detected in these areas, a defined area around the geographic position of the detection will be closed for 15 days. Closures could extend beyond 15 days if whales remain in the area.
- Outside the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bay of Fundy 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
- 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 fishing gear
- New gear marking requirements are required for all fixed gear fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The gear marking requirements will identify region, fishery, and, for lobster and crab fisheries only, the specific fishing area.
Mandatory reporting for lost gear
- Licence holders in all fixed-gear fisheries are 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 for 2021 and beyond
- 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 ropeless gear trials in closed areas.
- Working with industry, fishery by fishery, to identify gear solutions for preventing injury to right whales.
- Plans to implement weak rope or weak breaking points by the end of 2021.
- Plans to implement requirements for maximum rope diameters, sinking rope between pots and traps, and reductions in vertical and floating rope for after 2021.
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 (underwater microphones) and glider technologies.
- Multiple agencies are 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 regard. 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, 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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