New Brunswick

Fishing zones closed after North Atlantic right whale sightings

A number of fishing zones in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been closed after North Atlantic right whales were sighted earlier this week.

Nine grids in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are affected by the closure

North Atlantic right whales have been spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (NOAA Fisheries/Twitter)

A number of fishing zones in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been closed after two North Atlantic right whales were sighted off Miscou Island Sunday. 

The closures of the nine grids were effective Friday at 5 p.m.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada had allowed a 96-hour delay of the grid closures due to the weather forecast. All of the gear affected had to be removed from the closed area before the time of closure.

All gear from any fishing season that was open at the time of the closure had to be removed including snow crab, toad crab, rock crab, lobster, whelk, Greenland halibut (fixed gear) and winter flounder (fixed gear).

The closures would also be in effect for Atlantic halibut (fixed gear), mackerel (gillnet) and herring (gillnet) when gear is left unattended.

A Fisheries and Oceans Canada aerial surveillance crew had spotted the animals swimming in the middle of the gulf, more than 100 kilometres northeast of Miscou Island. A Dalhousie University whale-tracking map shows the most recent detections.

Researchers try to keep a close eye on the movements of the critically endangered species, in part to help inform government-imposed protective measures.

This is the first season with new protections in place that Ottawa announced in late February. Those protections were in addition to existing measures such as vessel speed limits and changes to the fishing season calendar.

New rules

Nine full grids have been closed to fishing after North Atlantic right whales were seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
This year a fishing zone in the gulf will be closed until the end of the season on Nov. 15 if whales are detected in that area more than once during a 15-day period. Previously, the zone would be re-opened after 15 days.

Temporary fishing closures will also expand further into the Bay of Fundy.

The government also introduced special restricted areas that vessels will have to either avoid completely or in which their speed must be reduced to eight knots.

Fisheries are also required to mark their gear to identify the country, region and fishery it was used in, in an effort to help trace the gear after an entanglement. 

With files from Colin McPhail

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