DFO will not change fishing area closures, despite proposed exemptions

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says closures of several fishing areas will remain in place, despite proposals from fishermen asking for some flexibility.

Fishermen had asked for 'co-habitation with the whales'

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it has decided that the fishing area closures will remain in place to protect the North Atlantic right whales from gear entanglements, despite proposals asking for some exemptions. (Center for Coastal Studies/NOAA)

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says closures of several fishing areas will remain in place, despite proposals from fishermen regarding possible exceptions.

In a statement released Friday, department officials said they had received proposals from  the Maritime Fishermen's Union and from the Regroupement des Pêcheurs professionnels du Sud de la Gaspésie asking the department to consider exempting shallow waters from temporary closures.

However, the department has concluded that the measures will remain in place to protect the North Atlantic right whales from gear entanglements.

"This course of action is based on the best science information available about the presence of right whales in our waters," the statements said.

"We continue to regularly review sightings and closely monitor the whales' movement to adjust measures accordingly based on the best available information."

The fishing groups put the proposal forward after more closures went into effect Wednesday in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, causing anxiety among fishermen over their shrinking fishing grounds. Several fishing areas have been closed off in recent weeks after at least 12 whales have been spotted close to the shores of northeastern New Brunswick. 

In an interview earlier this week, Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, said the fishermen are asking for what Mallet called "co-habitation with the whales."

Mallet said fishermen want to be able to continue fishing in water up to a maximum depth of 60 feet (about 18 metres) or 10 fathoms, even in areas that have been closed.

"So in this sense fishermen would be able to continue their fishing up until the end of the season and the whales would be able to do their thing until we finish our season," he said.

CBC reached out to the Maritime Fishermen's Union Friday evening but did not immediately receive a response.