Gateway Gazette

Canadian Wildlife Federation Encouraged but Cautious About New Measures to Conserve Right Whales

OTTAWA, Feb. 27, 2020 –The federal government’s new measures to conserve right whales are well founded and we are hopeful they will prevent another mortality crisis; however, the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is urging the development of a ‘Plan B’.

“The federal government’s strategy for 2020 and beyond shows a continued interest in preventing harm to whales from fishing and shipping, and an evolution of past measures by incorporating new information and new science,” said Sean Brillant, CWF Senior Conservation Biologist, Marine Programs. “These efforts are welcome but depending on the results, more urgent actions may be required, and we need to have a plan in place.”

CWF strongly supports new components of the measures announced Feb. 27, 2020.

This includes:

  • the adaptive approaches to spatial management (e.g. season-long area closures, vessel restriction areas) which are better options than attempting to predict where these measures will be most effective
  • the use of acoustic detections for triggering management actions
  • the ongoing investment in aerial surveys
  • the expansion of dynamic fishery closure protocols to the Bay of Fundy
  • the establishment of a vessel restriction area in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • the work to open and complete the crab fishery as soon as possible

However, CWF cautions that Canada is still facing a very serious situation.

“If we continue to accidentally kill these whales we won’t be able to export Canadian seafood to the States.”

CWF is calling for greater traffic separation and more effort to prevent ship strikes in the Cabot Strait. CWF research with Dalhousie University has shown that speeds much lower than 10 knots are required to prevent mortality from collisions by large vessels, and we are encouraged to see an 8-knot maximum speed for vessels transiting the restricted area in the Shediac Valley. CWF has also recommended that small vessels take precautions to ensure they are not colliding with whales, such as posting a watch when they are travelling through areas where whales are present.

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