Feds will no longer help Quebec with whale rescue efforts
Ottawa determined disentangling mammals from nets a 'high-risk activity'
Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it will no longer help Quebec's emergency response teams free trapped whales if it involves cutting them free from nets because it's too risky.
The Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network has been working alongside agents from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the past 12 years to reduce the number of accidental deaths of marine mammals trapped in nets.
Starting this summer, however, federal agents won't be allowed to untangle whales caught in fishing nets.
"This is the only region in Canada where DFO fishery officers were involved directly in disentanglement," Robert Michaud, the coordinator of the Quebec organization, said.
"We have fishery agents from the lower North Shore to the Magdelene Islands and the Gaspésie and also in the Saint-Lawrence estuary and this is going to be our challenge for this summer."
In the past, he says DFO officers have helped rescue as many as five large marine mammals trapped in nets every season.
Randy Jenkins, a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says the government made the decision after conducting an analysis of marine mammal rescues.
"It was determined that the large marine mammal disentanglement is a 'high-risk activity' and it's best undertaken by experts," Jenkins said.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada will still be allowed to provide other assistance as long as they don't cut nets, he said.
Jenkins said a national policy should be adopted by the fall.
Michaud said he welcomes a national policy for rescuing marine mammals, but his organization will have to find new ways to operate until that happens.