Ot­tawa pledges full pro­tec­tion for ‘ma­jes­tic’ right whales

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - KEVIN BIS­SETT

MONCTON, N.B. — Ot­tawa will bring “ab­so­lutely ev­ery pro­tec­tion to bear” to pro­tect and bol­ster right whales fol­low­ing 10 deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since early June, says fed­eral Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc.

LeBlanc told a Moncton, N.B., brief­ing Thurs­day that Cana­di­ans have been moved by the deaths, and sci­en­tists are study­ing all po­ten­tial mea­sures.

“The Gov­ern­ment of Canada will bring all of the re­sources nec­es­sary,” he said.

LeBlanc re­counted see­ing 15 to 20 right whales Thurs­day morn­ing while fly­ing over an area east of Mis­cou Is­land in New Brunswick: “It was an ab­so­lutely ma­jes­tic sight and a priv­i­lege for me to see th­ese ma­jes­tic crea­tures in a habi­tat for them that is rel­a­tively new.”

He said it’s be­lieved 80 to 100 right whales are cur­rently in the gulf and sci­en­tists be­lieve sim­i­lar num­bers will be there next year as they search for plank­ton to feed on.

The Fish­eries Depart­ment has al­ready taken steps to pre­vent fur­ther deaths, in­clud­ing short­en­ing the snow crab sea­son and ask­ing fish­er­men in the gulf to re­port any whale sight­ings.

LeBlanc said mariners have been asked to take vol­un­tary mea­sures such as slow­ing to 10 knots.

LeBlanc said he’s con­cerned the whale deaths could hurt the rep­u­ta­tion of the Cana­dian fish­ing in­dus­try, so the depart­ment and fish­er­men are ea­ger to pro­tect the whales. He noted the U.S. Marine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act im­poses a burden on trad­ing part­ners.

“If a coun­try doesn’t take its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, then one of the po­ten­tial reme­dies is a re­stric­tion in the U.S. mar­ket. Canada is, and will take, ev­ery pos­si­ble mea­sure to en­sure we’re do­ing what the world ex­pects of us and what Cana­di­ans ex­pect of us to pro­tect th­ese species.”

LeBlanc said fish­er­men can also do things like lim­it­ing the amount of rope they have on the wa­ter.

“If you put your crab trap in 200 feet of wa­ter, maybe you don’t need 350 feet of rope be­cause 150 feet of that will be float­ing across the surface,” he said.

Col­li­sions with ships and fish­ing gear en­tan­gle­ments are ma­jor threats for the whales.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A dead right whale in western New­found­land. Ten have died in the re­gion.

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