A U.S. agency has found an
'alarming' spike in the number of right whales entangled in lobster trap ropes.
up with N.B. fishermen to protect right whales from lobster trap
officials are looking at changes to lobster fishing methods after a U.S. agency
found an "alarming" spike in the number of right whales entangled in lobster
"We're exploring all options;' Harvey Millar
of the federal Fisheries Department said in an interview.
"We're looking at the best way to mitigate fishing
industry interaction with the right whales that stay in the Bay of Fundy area
when the fishing season starts."
entanglements represent more than twice the number usually seen in the
southeast during right whale calving season; Jamison Smith of the
administration said in a statement.
"In each case,
significant amounts of rope - often more than 500 feet - were in or around the
At least one of the entanglements has
been preliminarily identified as Canadian lobster gear.
Millar said researchers are working with fishermen in New
Brunswick to look at potential alternatives to the lobster-trapping system, but
the extreme differential between high and low tides in the Bay of Fundy hinders
efforts to reduce the number of"floating groundlines."
Tides can range up to a world record high of 17 metres.
"In the Bay of Fundy, with its high tides - solutions may not work as well as
in other areas,' he said.
"Our Fisheries and Oceans
scientists are doing some testing and are working on a project with some
fishermen, testing different lines to see how they work."
New U.S. rules mandate the use of sinking groundlines
that keep ropes slack on the ocean floor. But in waters with a rocky bottom,
such as the Bay of Fundy, Millar said that system may not work for Canadian
"We're taking a good look at it and seeing if
it will work in the Bay of Fundy, which is a different situation," he said.
"The solutions they have may be different than the ones we come up with."
The department currently has a right whale mitigation
plan in place. Fishermen and federal officials report any right whale
sightings, and lobster traps are moved to avoid the mammal's path.
A new shipping lane that keeps traffic clear of the
whales is also in place, along with speed limits to help ships avoid hitting
the slow-moving leviathans. Regular air flights also search for the whales.
"There are a number of initiatives on the go, and we are
certainly very involved with the researchers in a number of ways," Melanie
Sonnenberg, of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said in an interview.
"What is most important is that we keep the amount of
rope in the water down in the presence of the right whale:'
Sonnenberg said there is a constant dialogue with
researchers to build on the safe practices already in place.. Miller said talks
with the U. S. are also under way.
"We work closely with
the United States to do anything we can;' Millar said. "We both have the same
goal, to protect the right whale.