Fisheries minister urges Ottawa to help fishermen make up for revenue lost to Gulf closures

New Brunswick's fisheries minister is calling on Ottawa to find time for fishermen to make up for days lost to a growing number of closures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence designed to protect North Atlantic right whales.

Fisheries and Oceans adds 10 new grids, effective June 15, due to presence of North Atlantic right whales

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced several new measures designed to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after a historically deadly summer last year. (Center for Coastal Studies/NOAA)

New Brunswick's fisheries minister is calling on Ottawa to find ways to make up for lost revenue in the fishing industry in light of a growing number of closures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence designed to protect North Atlantic right whales.

Rick Doucet issued a statement on Monday night after Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced 10 new grids will be temporarily closed, effective June 15 at 4 p.m. AT, due to the presence of whales.

The affected areas include: GV32, GV33, GV34, GV35, GX32, GX33, GX34, GW32, GW33 and GW34.

Fishermen and fish processors alike are concerned about lost revenue, said Doucet.

"We would urge the federal government to look at measures such as finding a time for those with licences to replace the lost days on the water and to address concerns in the region as to how this might impact employment insurance and how the federal government can mitigate that."

Doucet said he appreciates the federal department is making difficult decisions, but stressed the lobster and crab fisheries are important parts of the New Brunswick economy.

"As the country's second-largest exporter of fish and seafood, we need to make sure that every effort is put forward to protect these animals, to ensure that our export markets remain open, and to maintain a sustainable lobster and snow crab fishery for years to come."

Union holds emergency meeting

The Maritime Fishermen's Union held an emergency meeting via conference call Monday night after the closures were announced. No details were immediately available.

The closures affect 65 New Brunswick fishermen, according to the union.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is extending the delay of closure by 48 hours because of the predicted high winds and providing a 96 hour advance notice to licence holders to retrieve gear from the areas that will be closing, according to its website.

 All gear must be removed from the closed area before the time of closure, the notice states.

The closures will remain in effect until further notice, the federal department said.

The dynamic closure, indicated in red, was issued Monday after North Atlantic right whales, illustrated by yellow dots and blue dots, were spotted. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

They come on the heels of ongoing closures in grids GU37 (portion), GU38 (portion), GU39 (portion), GU40 (portion), GV36, GV37, GV38, GV39, GV40 (portion), GW35, GW36, GW37, GW38, GW39, GW40, GW41, GX35, GX36, GX37, GX38, GX39, GX40 and GX41.

The affected fisheries include: snow crab, toad crab, rock crab, lobster, whelk, Greenland halibut (fixed gear) and winter flounder (fixed gear). Closures will also be in effect for Atlantic halibut (fixed gear) and mackerel (gillnet) when gear is left unattended, according to the notice.

At least 18 North Atlantic right whales have been found dead since last year — 12 in Canadian waters and six off the coast of the U.S.

There are only about 450 North Atlantic right whales left in the world. 

Necropsies on seven of the carcasses determined four whales died of blunt force trauma from collisions with ships, and the other three likely died from entanglements in fishing gear.

With files from Radio-Canada