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Canada temporarily shuts fishing areas to help right whales

Researchers examine one of the six North Atlantic right whales that died last year in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in a recent handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Marine Animal Response Society
Researchers examine one of the six North Atlantic right whales that died last year in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Marine Animal Response Society - File photos

NEWPORT, Que. - The Canadian government says it is taking steps to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from encounters with fishing vessels and gear.

The whales are one of the world's rarest marine mammals, and they have struggled with high mortality in recent years, especially in Canadian waters. Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it's enacting temporary fisheries closures in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and off Quebec.

The Canadian agency says the closures go into effect Tuesday afternoon and will stay in place until further notice. The agency says the closures are due to the presence of right whales in the area.

U.S. and Canadian officials have debated the proper course for protecting right whales in recent months. U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, says Canadian protections “have got to work parallel” to U.S. efforts.

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