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Fisheries Department ends snow crab season early to prevent more whale deaths

In this Jan. 14, 2012 file photo, fishing boats line the docks during crab season at Cannery Row in Kodiak, Alaska. Alaska's.
In this Jan. 14, 2012 file photo, fishing boats line the docks during crab season at Cannery Row in Kodiak, Alaska. Alaska's. AP Photo/James Brooks, Kodiak Daily Mirror, File)

The snow crab fishing season ended on Thursday after Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced that they have closed fishing Area 12, in the Gulf of St. Lawerence.

The announcement comes only days after the discovery of an eighth North Atlantic right whale carcass, which is now being towed to land so that a necropsy can be performed and a cause of death established.

The whale’s death and the discovery of another of the ocean giants entangled in fishing gear have directly played into the DFO’s decision-making process.

Justin Trudeau said on Friday that he has asked the DFO to continue to investigate the issue.

READ MORE: Eighth North Atlantic right whale found dead in Gulf of St. Lawrence

“This decision was made in an effort to protect North Atlantic right whales from risks posed by snow crab fishing gear in the area,” read a statement released on Thursday.

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There is estimated to be as few as  525 right whales left. The species is listed as critically endangered.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced on July 21, 2017 that they have closed Snow Crab Fishing Area 12, as seen on this map
Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced on July 21, 2017 that they have closed Snow Crab Fishing Area 12, as seen on this map. Fisheries and Oceans Canada

In their statement, the DFO admits that this may have an effect on local fisherman.

“As of today, 98 per cent of the total allowable catch for snow crab in Area 12 has already been harvested,” reads the statement. “However, the recent whale mortalities in the area are unprecedented.”

READ MORE: Canada extends Snow Crab fishing season, closes area due to endangered whales

The decision reverses an extension issued late last week that extended the fishing season to July 28, 2017, throughout fishing Area 12, except for a small portion where the whales were known to frequent.

The DFO says they are continuing to cease whale disentanglements on their boats as they review their policies and practices regarding the issue.

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That policy change came after the death of Joe Howlett, a whale rescuer aboard a DFO boat.

He died after freeing a North Atlantic right whale that had been entangled in fishing gear.

The whale rescuer had reportedly rescued over two dozen whales during the last 15 years.

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