2022 fishery management measures
North Atlantic right whales
The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) is listed as Endangered under the Canadian federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Canada has a suite of fisheries measures and initiatives in place in Atlantic Canada and Quebec to prevent entanglements.
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.
- If a right whale is visually or acoustically detected again in the closed area during days 9-15, a closure 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, 2022.
- 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 are 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 is required for all non-tended fixed gear fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, including lobster and crab. 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.
Mandatory Whalesafe gear:
- The timeline to test and implement requirements to use low breaking strength fishing gear in non-tended, fixed gear and trap and pot commercial has been extended to 2024 for fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
- Industry trials of “whale safe” gear technologies that minimize or eliminate the risk of entanglement to whales are being supported.
- Ropeless/rope-on-demand gear trials are being authorized in closed areas.
Continued monitoring and reporting:
- Detecting right whales visually and acoustically by aircraft and at-sea surveillance, and acoustically with hydrophones (underwater microphones) capable of near real-time detection on stationary buoys and mobile underwater gliders.
- Working together with multiple agencies to detect right whales, share data, and monitor active fishing areas, including closed fishing areas.
- Continuing research activities to better understand right whale behaviour, movement in Canadian waters, and how they are affected by environmental stressors.
- Whale Insight: Interactive map on the latest right whale detections
Retrieving ghost gear from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Bay of Fundy:
- Ghost gear retrieval activities are taking place in areas of known gear-loss, and in areas were right whales are known to frequent.
- As of December 2021, 3,891 units of derelict fishing gear was retrieved from Canada’s east coast.
Marine Mammal Response:
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to support the Marine Mammal Response Program, which aims to assist marine mammals and sea turtles in distress, including right whales.
- In collaboration with conservation groups and non-governmental organizations, the Department supports marine mammal incident response networks in all regions.
Engagement with stakeholders:
- Our adaptive management measures, which incorporate the best available science, were developed through close collaboration between our department, the fishing industry, and leading right whale scientists to achieve the goal of right whale protection and recovery.
- A technical working group of harvesters, right whale experts, and departmental officials meets regularly throughout the year to discuss management issues in related to right whales in Canadian waters.
- An annual North Atlantic right whale advisory meeting with stakeholders takes place each November.
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