Mr. Speaker, measures were urgently developed over a five-month period due to the unprecedented North Atlantic right whale mortality event that occurred in 2017. They take into account the best available science and input from stakeholders, partners, experts, and indigenous peoples. Closures will reduce fishing effort and could impact communities, but the survival of the species is tied to the long-term economic well-being of Canada’s coastal communities. As a result, in-depth economic analysis of the impact of the new management measures on the New Brunswick lobster fishing industry and overall New Brunswick economy did not occur.
The fishing area closed on April 28 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region could affect up to 200 lobster harvesters and covers approximately 196 km2 or 4.9% of the entire lobster fishing ground in lobster fishing area, LFA, 23C. Each fish harvester has 300 traps. By imposing the closure, there is a potential reduction of up to 60,000 vertical lines in the water in an area where North Atlantic right whale concentration was observed in 2017. Since the season opening, unofficial LFA 23 landings are between 350 pounds per day, for LFA 23 D, and up to 1,000 pounds per day, for LFA 23 A, B, and C, which are typical to above average from previous years. Thus far, the impacts of the closure have been limited.
The targeted fisheries management measures being applied demonstrate Canada’s commitment to protecting this species, which is both mandated under the Canadian Species at Risk Act and critical to meeting the new import provisions under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Our government will continue to work co-operatively with U.S. counterparts to ensure Canada is able to meet the new U.S. import provisions and avoid any potential impact to the sector with regards to trade.
The current state of the right whale population is extremely concerning and the Government of Canada will continue to work with experts, industry, and environmental groups to develop approaches to reduce risks to whales while limiting negative impacts to fishing communities. DFO is committed to working with industry to explore additional management measures and to develop appropriate systems for fishing gear rope and buoys for future years that will further reduce risks to North Atlantic right whales and protect Canada’s vital fisheries sector.