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Fisherman worried that right whales could close fishery zones as lobster season kicks off

Fishing boats loaded with lobster traps head from Eastern Passage, N.S. on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 as the lobster season in southwestern Nova Scotia gets underway.
Fishing boats loaded with lobster traps head from Eastern Passage, N.S. on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 as the lobster season in southwestern Nova Scotia gets underway. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The spring lobster season began in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Monday, amid worries the arrival of endangered right whales could interrupt the lucrative fishery.

The lobster season extends from “setting day” until July 1, and is among the largest fisheries in the region.

Carl Allen of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union said if whales swim into designated areas, new federal rules could close the lobster fisheries along the shorelines.

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He argues this is unnecessary because there is little record of the endangered mammals becoming snared in lobster trap lines.

However, federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said last week that his department’s rules have to match standards in the United States, or there’s a risk the U.S. will block fishermen from selling lobster into the American market.

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A total of 18 North Atlantic right whales were killed in Canadian and U.S. waters last year – mainly due to vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

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There are only about 450 of the whales left, and many spend their summers feeding in the Gulf.

Allen said the spring lobster season began in most areas today, though ice was causing a delay in a zone off the northeastern coast of New Brunswick.