The North Atlantic right whale is on the verge of extinction after a year of no newborn calves and an increased number of deaths to ships striking the mammal.
To try and help save the species, Canada is changing the dates of the country’s snow crab season and establishing a permanent speed limit in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Recent autopsies on 12 right whales that were found dead in Canadian waters showed that most met their end by becoming tangled in fish gear or being hit by boats.
The lack of newborns and increased deaths has many concerned including Canadian Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc who said that the lack of newborns underscores the need to make the changes.
“We don’t think it’s too late,” he said. “We think if we don’t act in a very robust way, we’ll set on course a very tragic outcome — and that’s why we’re here today announcing these measures.”
As well, LeBlanc promised a new multimillion-dollar announcement in the coming weeks to allow snow crab fishers to test rope-less traps.
The snow crab season will now start and end earlier to better protect the right whales so that by the time they finish their migration, the season will be completed. The southern part of the Gulf, where majority of the whales were found last year, will be closed to fishing after April 28th.
Temporary closures will be enacted anywhere whales are spotted for at least 15 days, and the area will not be reopened to fishing until at least two surveillance flights show no signs of whales. All snow crab gear will have to be removing from the water by June 30, two weeks earlier than usual, and there will be lower limits for the number of traps allowed in certain areas.