In the wake of the death of eight North Atlantic Right Whales, the department of Fisheries and Oceans has announced the closure of Snow Crab Fishing Area 12 in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
A statement from DFO indicates the decision was made to protect North Atlantic Right Whales from risks posed by snow crab fishing gear in the area. As of July 20, 98 per cent of the total allowable catch for snow crab in Area 12 had already been harvested.
“We understand the impact this could have on fishers. However, the recent whale mortalities in the area are unprecedented and this closure is an important measure to address the situation,” the department statement notes.
On July 19, an eighth North Atlantic Right Whale was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Canadian Coast Guard towed the whale to shore and a necropsy was done with the help of many partners, to determine the cause of death. Another Right Whale was found entangled in fishing gear in the same area later that day.
“While the entanglement of a whale is an extremely difficult and distressing situation, our first priority is the safety of those involved in marine mammal response,” the department says.
In light of the death of Joe Howlett during a whale rescue, DFO has paused Right Whale disentanglements while it reviews policies and practices regarding responses to Right Whale entanglements.