Fishermen’s union, DFO minister meet over closures meant to protect right whales
A meeting between the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) and federal government did not end the way the fishermen had hoped.
The two sides spent more than an hour behind closed doors on Friday at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) office in Moncton.
“It’s been a derby, basically, to try and change, tweak, adapt ourselves to this fishing plan,” said Martin Mallett, the executive director of the MFU.
“We don’t want to kill the whales. We want to protect them and we want to show the work that we’ve been doing since forever in terms of not being entangled in these whales.”
The union was asking DFO to reconsider full zone closures on the Gulf of St. Lawrence after a North Atlantic right whale is spotted.
WATCH: Canada closes more fisheries to protect Right whales
It’s part of new measures imposed by the department to help protect the endangered whale, after a deadly year on the water in 2017.
Fishermen were asking to be able to drop lobster traps in water that’s 35 feet deep in those closed areas.
“The idea that we could have kept a certain portion of shallow water open in my view was not responsible. It wasn’t a risk I was prepared to take,” said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Data from south of the boarder suggests that’s where female whales and their calves linger, looking for food sources. But there’s no current research that suggests the same in Canadian waters.
“I think that you’re going to find that the data from this summer is going to prove us right to say that North American right whales do not venture into water that less than 120 feet,” said Carl Allen, the president of the MFU.
DFO has temporarily closed 4,600-square kilometres of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to non-tended fixed gear fisheries, such as snow crab and lobster.
While the minister touted the meeting as being rather positive, he made it quite clear that moving forward there will be no amendments or changes to any policies or practices as Canada’s image on the world stage hangs in the balance.
To do so, he said, could endanger an industry worth billions in exports.
“We’re really playing Russian roulette with the entire future of the Canadian fish and seafood industry, so I’m not going to be the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that took the slightest risk when I had alternatives to avoid it,” said LeBlanc.
Those impacted by the closures will be given additional lobster fishing days this fall.
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