DFO sus­pends some whale res­cues

Move comes af­ter death of New Brunswick fish­er­man

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

Fed­eral of­fi­cials are halt­ing ef­forts to free North At­lantic right whales trapped in fish­ing gear fol­low­ing the re­cent death of a whale res­cuer in New Brunswick.

Fish­eries spokesman Vance Chow said the depart­ment is re­view­ing how it re­sponds to whale en­tan­gle­ments and un­til that re­view is com­plete, it is paus­ing ef­forts free North At­lantic right whales.

The depart­ment said ef­forts to un­tan­gle other whales will be as­sessed on a case-by-case ba­sis.

Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic Le­Blanc told CTV News in an in­ter­view Thurs­day that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how New Brunswick lob­ster fish­er­man Joe Howlett died while res­cu­ing an en­tan­gled right whale.

“We need to sus­pend that par­tic­u­lar prac­tice un­til we have the ben­e­fit of a Trans­port Canada in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into the cir­cum­stances of what hap­pened on Mon­day,” he said.

Howlett died af­ter free­ing a North At­lantic right whale that had been en­tan­gled in fish­ing gear near Ship­pa­gan, N.B.

Ot­tawa’s move comes a day af­ter an Amer­i­can agency said it was halt­ing ef­forts to free large whales.

The Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which re­sponds to ma­rine mam­mals in dis­tress, said it was con­duct­ing its own re­view of emer­gency re­sponse pro­to­cols.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials in Canada is­sued a state­ment Wed­nes­day to high­light new ef­forts to pro­tect en­dan­gered right whales.

Among other things, a no­tice was is­sued to the com­mer­cial fish­ing in­dus­try in the Gulf of St. Lawrence ask­ing fish­er­men to watch for whales and to re­port any sight­ings.

Of­fi­cials are also ask­ing mariners to slow down along the Lau­ren­tian chan­nel ship­ping lanes be­tween the Mag­dalen Is­lands and the Gaspe penin­sula un­til Sept. 30.

As well, the gov­ern­ment has im­posed a par­tial clo­sure within a nearby snow crab fish­ing area that whales are known to fre­quent.

Mean­while, a group of wildlife vet­eri­nar­i­ans say sev­eral North At­lantic right whale car­casses found float­ing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in re­cent weeks showed signs of blunt trauma.

The Cana­dian Wildlife Health Co-op­er­a­tive is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day say­ing two necrop­sies were per­formed ear­lier this week in the Mag­dalen Is­lands, and while one right whale car­cass was too de­com­posed for a pre­lim­i­nary di­ag­no­sis, the sec­ond had marks of blunt trauma.

The group said the marks sug­gest the en­dan­gered whale may have col­lided with a ves­sel.

Tests per­formed ear­lier on two right whales in Prince Ed­ward Is­land also showed signs of blunt trauma.

As of July 6, seven right whale car­casses have been found float­ing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Ma­rine sci­en­tists have said they need to in­ten­sify ef­forts to find out if the lum­ber­ing gi­ants are mak­ing the Gulf one of their pri­mary feed­ing grounds in a shift away from their tra­di­tional habi­tats in the Bay of Fundy and Rose­way Basin.

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