Lobster and crab fishermen in New Brunswick are up in arms over new measures announced by the federal government to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale.
Fishermen say the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) waited until the last minute to tell them about the changes.
“The people in Ottawa that decided this whole plan is a great idea obviously have never been on the water before,” said Carl Allen, president of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, who represent 1,200 fishermen impacted by the new rules.
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The DFO announced on Tuesday that a portion of the Gulf of St. Lawrence where Right Whales were spotted last year will now be closed, while other areas will experience rolling closures as whales are spotted.
“One whale can potentially close an area the size of the Acadian Peninsula by itself so we are very worried at this point,” Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, said.
The new rules say fishermen will also have to reduce the amount of rope floating on the surface of the water, report all lost fishing gear, inform DFO of all marine mammal interactions, and report sightings of live, free-swimming whales to the DFO.
This comes on the heels of similar changes to the snow crab industry announced earlier this year.
The union says they’d rather have fishermen not set traps deeper than 120 feet of water — and ore traps on the lines to reduce rope.
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Words echoed in Ottawa by Todd Doherty, the Conservative party fisheries critic.
“There’s a number of measures that are being taken voluntarily as well by industry but I think first and foremost, they need to get the right people in the room and consult squarely with those communities,” Doherty said
Fishermen are further concerned that severe ice buildup in the Gulf will delay the season further — meaning less time on the water and less time to fill quotas.
The move to revamp the industry comes less than a year after 18 of the whales were killed in U.S. and Canadian waters.