Ottawa, ON (Aug 3, 2017) Today’s remarks by federal Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc about the recent deaths of 10 of the remaining 522 North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence reflect our national concern regarding the conservation of these majestic animals that are in grave danger of going extinct in our lifetime.
“The Canadian Wildlife Federation is pleased to see the Minister express his deep concern over this troubling situation. We commend the positive first steps taken by the government to close the crab fishery in the area of the St. Lawrence where the right whales are and recommend speed reductions to commercial shipping traffic,” says Sean Brillant, CWF Senior Marine Conservation Biologist. “However, the work needed cannot be accomplished by government alone and it is encouraging to hear the Minister’s commitment to working with conservation organizations, scientific experts and industry to address threats and seek both immediate and long-term solutions.”
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is the leading research organization on right whale mortality in Canada and the coordinating agency for the Canadian Marine Animal Response Alliance, representing all of Canada’s marine animal response specialists.
The decline of right whales and many other federally protected marine species listed under the Species At Risk Act will continue on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts due to vessel-strikes and entanglement.
“Right whales are our ‘canaries in the coal mine’. These are the only whales that float immediately after they are killed,” explains Brillant. “Right Whales happen to be a species that is highly focused on and they have extremely high protection under the Species at Risk Act, but there are other whale species in the gulf including blue whales, humpbacks, fin whales, and belugas that are likely being affected as well.”
To solve this issue, there needs to be a significant investment in the following actions:
- Prevent entanglements before they occur. The most effective step is to
close all fisheries in Grand Manan Basin, Roseway Basin and other high-use
areas during the summer months as recommended in
North Atlantic Right Whale A science based review of recovery action
for three at-risk whales,
research led by CWF Senior Conservation Biologist Sean Brillant. In
addition, the Gulf of St Lawrence will also need new fishery management
rules, such as those being implemented this year for the crab fishery, as
we learn more about how whales use this area.
Reduce ship strikes. This can be done by immediately establishing and
operating an early-warning system for the commercial shipping industry on
both coasts to alert them of at-risk whales in their shipping lanes. This
will allow the shipping industry to reduce their speeds when whales are
present, and to significantly reduce deaths as a result of ship strikes.
This is vital for the conservation of marine mammals on both coasts,
particularly in areas where there is heavy or increasing shipping traffic.
Maintain existing populations of these species by adequately responding
to the immediate crisis of whales entangled in fishing gear. This requires
support for the regional marine animal response networks that provide the
expertise and personnel to cut the ropes to release marine animals
entangled in fishing gear.
“Investments in these areas would be insignificant compared to the values of the shipping industry and commercial fisheries industries in Canada,” says CWF’s CEO, Rick Bates. “We believe that decisions to support these actions would be positively received by industry, conservation organizations and others concerned with the survival of marine wildlife and the sustainable management of our ocean industries.”
- The Endangered North Atlantic right whale population is currently estimated at about 522 animals.
- The U.S. is requiring all seafood imports to adhere to their requirements for marine mammal bycatch. Canada submitted a report to the U.S. in the spring documenting known bycatch incidents. The recent unprecedented situation could jeopardize market access for fishermen and could have dire consequences for fishing and shipping industry as well as for whales.
- Reducing the risk of Right Whale entanglement in commercial fishing gear Canada will help secure exports of fish to the U.S..
- Almost all the risk to right whales from Canadian fishing gear occurs during July, August and September (12 per cent, 50 per cent and 37 per cent respectively).
- About 108 Right Whales become entangled each year.
- Conservatively, two to six right whales are killed every year due to entanglement.
- If the risk of entanglement is reduced by 30 per cent, this would prevent the deaths of at least two right whales every three years and prevent as many as 32 entanglements annually.
- Restricting fishing from Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin from July through October could achieve a 38 per cent risk reduction to right whales from Canadian fishing gear.
- Restricting groundfish longline fishing from Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin from July through October would achieve a 35 per cent reduction in risk to right whales from Canadian fishing gear.
- The groundfish fishery contributes the greatest proportion (86 per cent) of annual entanglement risk in Canada. Groundfish in these basins include cod, haddock, hake, and flounder.
- Fisheries restrictions in Grand Manan and Roseway Basins would have insignificant costs to the fisheries as they could move to other areas or times.
About the Canadian Wildlife Federation
Sean Brillant, Senior Conservation Biologist, Marine Programs, 902-237-9692,
email@example.com Pam Logan, Director of Communications, 613-222-1405, firstname.lastname@example.org Heather Robison, Media and Community Relations Officer, email@example.com,