Fisheries department announces new fishery closures, openings in bid to protect Right Whales

An adult male right whale, #1327, feeding and accompanied by white-sided dolphins. NOAA Fisheries

Canada’s fisheries department has announced a new series of fishery closures while opening previously closed areas as the result of the presence of North Atlantic Right Whales.

The dynamic closures are part of measures the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced in April which are designed to protect the endangered species of whales — 18 of which were killed in Canadian and U.S. waters in 2017.

The closures, which are meant to respond to sightings of the whales, will shut down the zones until further notice.

READ MORE: Carcass of North Atlantic right whale found off U.S. coast

The DFO announced the closures on Monday and Tuesday — with the new rules set to go into effect on 5 p.m. ADT on Friday.

By that time all gear, including fishing lines, must be removed from the area.

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The new closures will take place in the following areas, known as grids:

  • GX 44, GX 45, GY 44, GY 45 and GZ 45

The new closures will join other grids that have been previously closed, which includes:

  • G 39, a portion of GV 40, a portion of GV 41, GW 39, GW 40, GW 41, GW 42, a portion of GW 43, GX 39, GX 40, GX 41, GX 42, GX 43, GY 42, GY 43, GZ 42, GZ 43, HA 42, HA 43, HB 42 and HB 43

You can see the full extent of the closures in the map below highlighted in red.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans

The department says they’ll inform fisheries prior to the reopening of any closed zones.

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Additionally, the DFO opened the following grids on Monday at 5 p.m:

  • a portion of GU 36, a portion of GU 37, a portion of GU 38, GV 36, GV 37, GV 38, GW 36, GW 37 and GW 38.

The new closures mean that 27 grids in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are now — or will be closed — to the snow crab, toad crab, rock crab, lobster and whelk fisheries.

Closures will also be in effect for fixed gear winter flounder and Atlantic halibut fisheries while fisheries for Atlantic halibut, mackerel and herring will be closed in cases where gear is left unattended, the department said.

LeBlanc announced changes to the dates of the snow crab season back in March, in an attempt to protect right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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The speed limit was also reduced to 10 knots for large ships in the Gulf last year and will be reinstated between April 28 and Nov. 15.

There are believed to be fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remaining.

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