Researchers check out a dead right whale in the Gulf of St.Lawrence in a handout photo. Ottawa is changing the dates of the snow crab season and making a speed limit in the Gulf of St. Lawrence permanent in a bid to protect the heavily endangered North Atlantic right whales. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Speed limits, snow crab season changes coming to help save the whales

Ottawa is changing the dates of the snow crab season and making a speed limit in the Gulf of St. Lawrence permanent to protect the heavily endangered North Atlantic right whales

Ottawa is changing the dates of Canada’s snow crab season and establishing a permanent speed limit in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in hopes of protecting the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale.

There are only about 450 of the whales left, and last summer at least 18 were found dead off the east coasts of Canada and the United States. Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc says necropsies done on the 12 found in Canadian waters showed most had become tangled in fishing gear or hit by boats.

Related: B.C. Scientists witness first-ever documented killer whale infanticide

Scientists this week reported thus far

This year’s surveillance of the whales as they migrate north towards the Gulf for the summer has failed to spot a single newborn, scientists reported this week, adding to the concern surrounding one of Canada’s most at-risk mammals.

The lack of newborns underscores the need to make changes to the way ships and fisheries operate in the Gulf, LeBlanc told a news conference Wednesday.

“We don’t think it’s too late,” he said. “We think if we don’t act in a very robust way, we’ll set on course a very tragic outcome — and that’s why we’re here today announcing these measures.”

LeBlanc’s department is adjusting the dates of the snow crab season so it starts and ends earlier. The snow crab fishery will start as soon as possible, with the help of icebreakers and a hovercraft. The southern part of the Gulf, where most of the right whales were spotted last year, will be closed to fishing after April 28.

Related: Canadian snow crab imports threatened over whale deaths

Temporary closures will be enacted anywhere whales are spotted for at least 15 days, and the area won’t be reopened to fishing until at least two surveillance flights show no signs of whales.

All snow crab gear will have to be removed from the water by June 30, two weeks earlier than usual, and there will be lower limits for the number of traps allowed in certain areas.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau also says the speed limit of 10 knots imposed on large ships in the Gulf last year will be reinstated in the western part of the Gulf between April 28 and Nov. 15.

Two shipping lanes with normal speed limits will be kept open north and south of Anticosti Island as long as no whales are in the area, but limits will be imposed in those lanes if that changes.

LeBlanc promised a multimillion-dollar announcement in the coming weeks to allow snow crab fishers to test ropeless traps, using technology that allows the remote retrieval of traps from the ocean floor. The ropes that are traditionally used to retrieve traps are a frequent problem for the whales; removing them would eliminate a significant threat, he said.

“We don’t believe the measures we’ve announced today will have a serious economic disruption on the crab fishery,” LeBlanc added, noting most of the measures were recommended by the fishers themselves.

Related: Accidental deaths threaten endangered whale

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

School district considers new position, drug concerns raised

Assistant superintendent confirms spike in use of a Xanax-like drug in schools earlier this year

Nanaimo’s elementary schools graded by Fraser Institute

Annual Report Card on British Columbia’s Elementary Schools released Saturday, April 21

UPDATED: Nanaimo man dies after highway crash in Nanoose Bay Friday afternoon

Accident happened just before 4 p.m. near Hillview Road.

School district changes mind, won’t cut community school coordinators

Budget initiatives proposed for next school year

City of Nanaimo’s proposed resolutions rejected at local government conference

City council had contingent at Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention

MULTIMEDIA: Goats were special guests at Nanaimo Earth Day celebration

Community event was held Saturday, April 21, at John Barsby Secondary School

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Nanaimo region receives $700,000 in federal support for summer jobs

Funding for Nanaimo-Ladysmith up $74,000 from last year

Students celebrate new indigenous garden

Garden teaches students about traditional uses of local plants

RCMP investigate sexual assault in Courtenay

Comox Valley RCMP officers are investigating a reported sexual assault April 11

RCMP discover beaver the culprit in break-and-enter attempt

Nanaimo RCMP responded to a 911 call on Sun Valley Drive on Wednesday night

Austin Powers ‘Mini-Me’, Verne Troyer, dies at 49

Facebook page confirmed his death Saturday afternoon

B.C. parents grieving teen’s overdose death say it started with opioid prescription

Elliot Eurchuk, 16, died at his Oak Bay home Friday, after taking street drugs

16 of 20 fastest improving B.C. schools are public: Fraser Institute

Independent elementary schools remain at top of the chart in think tank’s annual report card

Most Read