'Everybody's losing': Crab fishermen prepare for more closures this week

With nine more fishing areas to close this week as endangered whales arrive in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, New Brunswick snow crab fishermen are braced for a turbulent season.

9 grids expected to close at 4 p.m. on Wednesday

Martin said the crab fishing season, which ended in June, was a particularly difficult one. (CBC)

With nine more fishing areas to close this week as endangered whales arrive in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, New Brunswick snow crab fishermen are braced for a turbulent season.

"We don't know what's going to happen today, tomorrow and for the coming days," said Jean Lanteigne, general manager of the Regional Federation of Professional Fishermen, based in Shippagan.

On Wednesday at 4 p.m., nine more "grids" or portions of grids will close to protect North Atlantic right whales from getting tangled up in fishing gear. That number is in addition to the six that closed last week.

"It's impossible to fish in there," said Lanteigne.

"We're tied up in a system where the house is burning, and we just have to watch."  

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it would make an announcement to the industry before areas are reopened.

Lanteigne said crab fishermen weren't surprised by the latest closures.

"We knew that it would happen that way," he said.

Jean Lanteigne said he has been against the closure of entire areas to fishing. (CBC)

Lanteigne, who represents about 20 crab fishermen in the affected area, said he receives news about closures almost daily.

"It seems everyday there's more additions of those closures."

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

Lanteigne expects the whales to travel and scour for food in the same areas they tried during a deadly summer last year.

Closures to impact market

Necropsies on some of the whales that died last year showed they'd been entangled in fishing gear or struck by ships. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

To make matters worse, he said, there aren't as many snow crab in some areas this year.  

This could be because of weather conditions, the snow crab may show up later.  

But the lower numbers have already forced at least two fishermen to quit, Lanteigne said.

With the additional closures and fewer snow crab, fishermen aren't able to fulfil their contracts, he said. 

"Everybody's being hurt, starting from the fishermen, then to the workers in the processing plant, the processing plant and the New Brunswick economy is being hurt," he said.

"Everybody's losing in this game."

With more fishing closures scheduled to start tomorrow to protect the North Atlantic right whales, Jean Lanteigne says it's getting crowded on the water. 14:16

When a whale is located through a sensor, additional space around that area is closed, Lanteigne said. 

Often, an area with a whale will be closed even if there aren't traps there, and any fishing gear has to be removed.

"It's not a cow that you have … tied up with a rope in the pasture," he said of the mammal. "It just travels."