HomeIndustry2023 Right Whale Regulations Released

2023 Right Whale Regulations Released

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently released its 2023 fisheries regulations to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale from entanglements in gear.

The hotspots for closure protocols are the Bay of Fundy, the Roseway and Grand Manan Basins and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In these zones, any right whale that is detected — whether acoustically or visually — will result in a 15-day closure for all non-tended fixed gear within 2,000 square kilometres of the detection.

If no whale is detected between days nine to 15 of the closure, the area will be reopened on day 15. Within the Bay of Fundy and the Roseway and Grand Manan basins, any sighting within those days will result in an additional 15-day closure. Within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an additional sighting will result in a season-long closure that will last until November 15, 2023.

During days nine to 15, DFO must conduct two flyovers before an area can be reopened. If aerial surveillance cannot be conducted, such as in poor weather conditions, the area will remain closed until the flights can be completed.

Outside of these highlighted zones, DFO will conduct closures on a case-by-case basis. A sighting of three or more whales or a right whale mother and calf will be subject to special considerations.

If a right whale is sighted in waters between 10–20 fathoms in depth, a temporary closure will be put in place. During this closure, harvesters would still be allowed to fish in waters under 10 fathoms deep. In case of a sighting of one or more whales in waters under 10 fathoms, an area around the sighting would effectively be closed for the entire shoreline until the closure is lifted.

DFO also laid out its requirements for fishing gear this year alongside closure protocol. Regulations require that all non-tended fixed gear within Atlantic Canada and Québec be marked to identify the specific region and fishery. In the lobster and crab fishery, the fishing area the gear is designated for must also be marked.

Any lost gear must also be reported as well as any contact between a marine mammal and a vessel or gear. As of February of 2023, 12,951 units of gear have been retrieved from Canada’s east coast.

DFO has indicated that while they intend to implement whale-safe gear, such as low breaking strength gear, the timeline for harvesters to implement this gear has been extended to 2024. The department is promoting industry-led whale-safe gear trials in order to minimize or eliminate future entanglements, including the authorization of ropeless or rope-on-demand gear in closed areas. Consultations on these types of gear will be launched in the near future, according to DFO.