A group of endangered North
Atlantic right whales is lingering in the Bay of Fundy.
Right whales in Bay
of Fundy may postpone lobster season
Fisheries Officials fear
whales will become entangled in fishing gear .
A number of rare
and endangered North Atlantic right whales are overstaying their welcome in the
Bay of Fundy and could force a delay in the opening of lobster season.
Jerry Conway of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
said Friday that although the main pods left the bay on schedule for southern
waters, as many as 50 ofthe slowmoving whales are hanging around.
Fishermen are scheduled to start setting traps on
"The concern is that with this number of whales
and the opening of the lobster season next week, there is potential for right
whales to get entangled in fishing gear," Conway said.
said normally, right whales leave the Bay of Fundy by mid-October moving first
into the Gulf of Maine before heading farthersouth.
Officials are discussing with fishermen the possibility
of delaying the opening of the lobster season. But Conway said other, less
drastic measures are also being considered.
the department will put on extra patrols to monitor the movement of the whales.
He said it may be possible to simply advise fishermen of
the location of the whales so they can avoid setting lobster traps in those
The whales have been spotted frolicking and
lolling on the surface along the southern New Brunswick coast, said Conway,
adding that they are so close to shore, people have been able to watch them
from the shoreline.
Conway said the whales have plenty of
food and clearly feel there's no need to rush south.
leave when there's lots to eat," he said.
southern New Brunswick believe government officials are overreacting to the
"I'm a pilot and I've been flying the Bay of
Fundy on a daily basis since 1978 and I can tell you this is not news," said
Klaus Sonnenberg of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association.
"It's normal to see right whales lingering in the Bay at
this time ofthe year"
Sonnenberg said more than 1,000
fishing families depend on the lucrative Bay of Fundy lobster fishery for
Fishermen also don't believe there are as many as
50 right whales left in the bay, he said, because normally just a couple of
family groups linger a bit longer than the others.
never had any problem."
Sonnenberg said recently
appointed managers at the Fisheries Department appear unaware of the typical
"There seems to be an overreaction by the
Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans," he said.
think there is a lack of understanding by DFO as to what the normal situation
is." Sonnenberg said U.S. fishermen fish lobster year round in the Gulf of
Maine, and they have never closed their fishery to guarantee safe passage for
The North Atlantic right whale was hunted to
near extinction by the late 1800s.
Although it is now a
protected species, marine biologists estimate the total population of North
Atlantic right whales at no more than 350, of which about 80 are breeding
The whales frequent the coastal waters from
Florida to the Maritimes, areas that are heavily used by the fishing and
The whales' low reproductive rate
coupled with a declining survival rate, especially for breeding females,
appears to have prevented the population from recovering.
The population is estimated to be declining at a rate of
two per cent a year.