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First right whales in Gulf of St. Lawrence trigger some fisheries closures

OTTAWA — Nearly 2,000 square kilometres in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are closed to fixed-gear fisheries until May 18 after the first right whales of the season were spotted by a Fisheries and Oceans plane Sunday.

The federal fisheries department is changing its protocols for protecting the highly endangered whales so fisheries are closed only when and where whales are spotted, rather than applying season-long closures in specific regions.

Fewer than 400 of the giant creatures are left, and ship strikes and fishing-gear entanglements have proven to be lethal to them.

Climate change is driving the whales to migrate north to Canadian waters earlier and in greater numbers than ever.

Adam Burns, the director general of fisheries resource management for the department, says the new rules should be more dynamic to both protect whales while allowing fishers to do their work when whales aren't there.

The two whales were spotted Sunday east of Chaleur Bay, and if more whales are seen in that spot during the 15-day closure, part of the area will be closed to fishing until November.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020.


The Canadian Press

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