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

Magic in the air at Nanaimo library on Harry Potter Day

VIRL’s Nanaimo North Library branch hosted activities Thursday

Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary presents NRGH with $550,000 donation

Second time auxiliary presents a cheque topping half a million dollars to hospital

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Easing overnight park camping bylaw is ‘bonkers’

Who is supposed to enforce the city’s list of restrictions, asks letter writer

Nanaimo’s 1 Port Drive could get a trial run as a temporary bus loop

Prideaux Street bus exchange expected to be relocated for six months this year

Downtown Nanaimo bridge to be closed to vehicle traffic this spring

Vehicles will be prohibited from driving on Bastion Street Bridge for six weeks

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Beefs & Bouquets, March 21

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

First Nations leader to try for NDP nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, announces intentions

Folk singer’s globe-trotting taking him to Nanaimo

Lorkin O’Reilly explores the immigrant experience on new album, plays the Vault on Friday, March 22

Scientists disembark in Nanaimo after international expedition probes Pacific salmon

Canadian, American, Russian, Korean and Japanese scientists survey salmon in Gulf of Alaska

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: On climate, think about the children

Our son doesn’t understand that he’s been given a legacy of environmental crises, says letter writer

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Most Read