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Atlantic Fisheries Fund success stories: New Brunswick

Since 2017, the Atlantic Fisheries Fund program has provided essential funding to more than 850 businesses in the fish and seafood sector across Atlantic Canada to support innovation, improve infrastructure and develop and sustain science partnerships.

Association des crabiers acadiens (ACA) and the Association des pêcheurs professionnels - crabiers acadiens (APPCA): Protecting North Atlantic right whales and an important industry

The North Atlantic right whale is an endangered species, with fewer than 350 alive today. Since 2017, these marine mammals have started gathering in larger numbers in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they have found a source of food. The presence of this endangered species coincides with snow crab harvesting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – a fishery which has a substantial, positive economic impact on coastal communities in Eastern Canada.

Snow crab fishing gear, particularly ropes, presents a danger of entanglement for right whales. In addition to Canada’s fishery management measures to help protect the whales from entanglements, new, innovative approaches are also being explored in cooperation with ecological and fisheries stakeholders.

The Association des crabiers acadiens (ACA) and the Association des pêcheurs professionnels - crabiers acadiens (APPCA), with the financial support of the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, developed a series of 16 initiatives, divided into two phases, to try to find solutions to help protect right whales from entanglement. During the first phase from 2018 to 2021, with the help of national and international experts, activities got underway ranging from the testing and sea trials of innovative ropes and rope-free traps, to trap geolocation devices and whale monitoring devices (hydrophones). In the second phase, the three most promising technologies were retained and are now being tested on a larger scale during the 2022 fishing season. Sea trials with rope-free traps, smart buoys which provide precise geolocation of the buoy and its movements, and low breaking-strength rope or rope with weak links, are underway to determine whether large-scale use in the fleet is feasible for the coming fishing seasons.

These breakthroughs and adaptations in technologies demonstrate the commitment of the snow crab industry to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales, while also protecting their long-standing industry. Work like this is leading us to a place where whales and harvesters can co-exist, for the benefit of all.

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