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OPINION: PEIFA shares concerns about 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 in a recent handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Marine Animal Response Society - File photos

2017 a year we hope won’t be repeated in terms of right whale fatalities

BY IAN MACPHERSON

GUEST OPINION

The Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA) would like to clarify and expand upon some of the information that has been in the media recently regarding North American Right Whales (NARW).

The PEIFA shares the concerns of the public around the declining population of these magnificent marine mammals.

The organization has been very active during the past winter attending numerous Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) informational meeting and representing the Prince Edward Island inshore harvesting sector at Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s industry roundtable in November 2017.

The PEIFA immediately struck a North Atlantic Right Whale Multi Species Working Group that has met several times over the past few months to discuss this important industry issue. One meeting featured internationally renowned NARW expert Dr. Moira Brown. These sessions assisted in giving our committee members a better understanding of the feeding and behavioural habits of these animals.

2017 was a year that we hope will not be repeated in terms of Right Whale fatalities in North America.

What we do know is as follows:

12 whales died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence not 18 as some reports have stated

7 necropsies were completed

2 deaths were attributed to snow crab gear

4 deaths were attributed to blunt force trauma symptomatic of large vessel strikes

1 cause of death could not be determined

Both the snow crab and lobster fishers on P.E.I. have supported and implemented the reduction of rope in their fishing practises and other gear standardization. In addition, the PEIFA has been a strong supporter of the creation of a lost gear registry that has been implemented. Pilot projects are also taking place this fishing season in the snow crab fishery, that will try new technologies to further efforts in the reduction of gear conflicts.

Any time a species is threatened it becomes an issue of great concern to many people, not only locally, nationally but also internationally. It is critical that factual and accurate information be disseminated to the public on an ongoing basis to keep people well informed of current and new developments.

The PEIFA and our colleagues in the United States have been and will continue to be focussed on this file and will continue to seek ways to stem the decline of the NARW that has been occurring over the past twenty years in North America.

- Ian MacPherson is general manager, P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association.

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