Ottawa pledges full protection for ‘majestic’ right whales
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.
A dead right whale in western Newfoundland. Ten have died in the region.