New measures to protect whales
SHEDIAC, N.B. — As Canadian officials scramble to determine whether an endangered whale caught in fishing rope off Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula may have freed itself, federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc is promising a new set of rules around commercial fishing gear to protect the large marine mammals. A North Atlantic right whale was spotted entangled in ropes during a fly-over of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Monday, but LeBlanc said aerial and water patrols were unable to locate it Tuesday.
“We identified a pod of 13 other North Atlantic right whales that were in the exact vicinity of where the other whale had been spotted entangled the previous day,” he said.
“We’re continuing to patrol the area but scientists believe it’s possible that perhaps the whale freed itself.” Officials are investigating whether the fishing gear rope that entangled the whale was in the area legally or had been lost or abandoned, which LeBlanc said has been the case with other entanglements this summer. Ten right whales have died since June in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, an unprecedented number of deaths for the endangered marine mammal. With an estimated population of 500 around the world, conservation groups and marine scientists have warned that the North Atlantic right whale is at imminent risk of extinction.