July 19, 2019 6:42 pm

‘We’ve got to do our part’ to prevent right whale deaths: fisherman

After recent whale deaths in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, new expanded measures by the federal government have been introduced to protect the dwindling right whale population.

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As a Halifax-based company seeks input from the fishing community for a prototype of ropeless fishing gear, a New Brunswick fisherman has another idea about how to decrease the dangers to North Atlantic right whales.

“People should slow down and be more careful,” says lobster fisherman Jean-Guy Gallant. “We’ve got to do our part too to save… the whales.”

While Gallant fishes the Northumberland Strait – which is not in the same area several of the endangered whales have been found dead – he says he has concerns about going ropeless.

“What happens if the mechanism doesn’t work?” he asks. “The trap will stay on the bottom so we won’t be able to fish it.”

“This whole solution is only going to be beneficial if it’s going to be recoverable,” says Ashored Innovations co-founder and CEO Aaron Stevenson. “We understand that ease-of-use, speed and time to reset, and reliability – ensuring that you can get your catch every time – is a huge piece of it.”

Jean-Guy Gallant, a lobster fisherman on the Northumberland Strait, says while everyone needs to be more cautious on the water, he questions the effectiveness of ropeless fishing gear

Callum Smith / Global News

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For Gallant, “the other option for me would be to install propeller guards (to) eliminate the ghost fishing by 95 per cent,” he says, adding while that would decrease the number of cut lines, it would slow vessels down.

According to Ashored Innovations, as much as 10 per cent of fixed fishing gear is lost, known as “ghost gear,” in waters worldwide.

READ MORE: Ropeless fishing gear in development as second right whale found dead in Gulf of St. Lawrence

Officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard are working on a three-day operation to remove lost fishing gear from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to make a safer environment for marine animals.

“The way that our system works is, as the fishing boat is approaching the fishing gear, it sends out an acoustic signal, which activates the release on the MOBI unit on the ocean floor,” said Stevenson in a phone interview Friday.

Aaron Stevenson, a co-founder and CEO of Ashored Innovations, says they’re making sure their ropeless gear will be reliable

Submitted: Ashored Innovations

There will be a backup timer to confirm the trap releases.

With only about 400 of the endangered whales left, crews have been doing everything they can to reduce the deaths, including implementing more speed restrictions in the Gulf and tightening triggers of fishing zone closures.

More details can be found here.

WATCH: (July 8, 2019) New governmental measures introduced to protect right whale

Meanwhile, Ashored Innovations intends to start sea trials Aug. 8th and continue to adapt with feedback from the fishing community.

Some of the gear could be ready for market by early 2020, Stevenson says.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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