The Right Whale Thing to Do

Dr. Sean Brillant is a Se­nior Con­ser­va­tion Bi­ol­o­gist with the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion with a fo­cus on Marine Con­ser­va­tion. He is CWF’S lead on the crit­i­cal plight of right whales.

Canadian Wildlife - - OUTDOORS -

The Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion is call­ing for an im­me­di­ate 30 per cent re­duc­tion in risk to right whale en­tan­gle­ment to help pro­tect the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species. Sean Brillant, CWF se­nior con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist, tells us why Canada needs to seize this op­por­tu­nity to save the ma­jes­tic an­i­mal. With only about 500 North At­lantic right whales re­main­ing, Brillant says we must act now.

HOW CAN WE HELP PRE­VENT EN­TAN­GLE­MENT?

CWF has pro­posed a rel­a­tively sim­ple strat­egy that could pre­vent the death of one or two right whales every year. This can be achieved if we re­strict fish­ing from two small ar­eas off the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Sco­tia dur­ing the sum­mer. This is enough to make the dif­fer­ence be­tween the re­cov­ery and ex­tinc­tion of the species. The re­duc­tion in risk would be sub­stan­tial, and the dis­rup­tion to fish­eries would be min­i­mal. About 108 right whales be­come en­tan­gled in fish­ing line each year. That’s one in five. This can’t con­tinue.

HOW WOULD THIS PLAN AF­FECT THE LO­CAL FISH­ERY?

CWF’S plan calls for re­stricted fish­ing in the Grand Manan Basin (in the Bay of Fundy, N.B.) and the Rose­way Basin (part of the Sco­tian

Shelf, N.S.) be­tween July and Oc­to­ber. Th­ese re­stric­tions would dis­place only 140 tonnes of seafood catches, and this would be off­set by achiev­ing im­por­tant sus­tain­abil­ity tar­gets. Re­duc­ing the risk of en­tan­gling right whales in com­mer­cial fish­ing gear will help se­cure Cana­dian seafood ex­ports to the U.S., which now re­quire im­porters to prove their catches were har­vested with min­i­mal harm to marine mam­mals. So es­sen­tially it’s a win-win. We will pre­vent whales from get­ting en­tan­gled in fish­ing line and sell more of the seafood we catch when the whales have left the area.

COULDN’T WE JUST CHANGE THE TYPE OF FISH­ING LINE SO IT DOESN’T HARM THE WHALES?

In the U.S., ef­forts to re­duce en­tan­gle­ments through mod­i­fied fish­ing gear have not been suc­cess­ful to date. The far bet­ter op­tion is to stop fish­ing at lo­ca­tions and times where en­tan­gle­ment risk is el­e­vated. In At­lantic Canada, al­most all the en­tan­gle­ment risk to right whales oc­curs dur­ing July (12 per cent), Au­gust (50 per cent) and Septem­ber (37 per cent). When whales be­come en­tan­gled, they suf­fer many wounds, have difficulty swimming and feed­ing, and may die. Even if they break free, the wounds and in­fec­tions can cause slow, painful deaths. It’s just not right to let that con­tinue.

WOULD REG­U­LAR FISH­ING RE­SUME AF­TER PEAK WHALE SEA­SON?

Yes, this would be a sea­sonal mea­sure. The ground­fish fish­ery con­trib­utes most (86 per cent) of the an­nual risk of en­tan­gle­ment for North At­lantic right whales. Ground­fish in th­ese basins in­clude cod, had­dock, hake and floun­der. Fish­ing would re­sume in Oc­to­ber so the im­pacts for lo­cal har­vest would not be dra­matic. Fur­ther­more, if we do not see a re­duc­tion in en­tan­gle­ment rates af­ter a few years with this plan, we will not want to con­tinue it. We are only in­ter­ested in changing fish­eries in ways that will make real im­prove­ments to con­ser­va­tion.

HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE AND GET IN­VOLVED?

• Hin­ter­land Who’s Who is re­leas­ing a new video about right whales this sum­mer. Check it out at hww.ca.

• Visit the Quest to Find Canada’s Great Whales page (Cana­di­an­wildlifefed­er­a­tion.ca/ whales). See Take Ac­tion at right for more.

• And don’t for­get to no­tify the Cana­dian Marine An­i­mal Re­sponse Al­liance (CMARA) if you see a marine an­i­mal in dis­tress (marinean­i­mal­re­sponse.ca).

Learn more at Cana­di­an­wildlifefed­er­a­tion.ca.

Se­vere en­tan­gle­ment scars mark the tail stalko­fanorthat­lantic right whale.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.