Oceana Highlights Continuity in 2024 Protection Guidelines, Advocates for Further Action

In response to the recently released 2024 protection guidelines for North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters, Oceana Canada, an ocean conservation group, expressed both appreciation for the maintained measures and a desire for more comprehensive actions to safeguard these endangered marine mammals.

Kim Elmslie, campaign director for Oceana Canada, shared her thoughts on the matter during an interview with Information Morning Moncton, emphasizing the critical need for enhanced protections considering the dwindling population of North Atlantic right whales.

While acknowledging the continuity in this year’s protection measures, Elmslie underscored Oceana’s desire to see even more robust initiatives implemented to ensure the whales’ survival. She highlighted the necessity of not weakening existing measures and expressed relief that this was not the case with the latest guidelines.

The protection measures outlined by Fisheries and Oceans Canada include the prohibition of fishing gear and activities in areas where right whales have been sighted for a specified duration. Additionally, if a whale is spotted within nine to 15 days after the closure of a fishing area, the closure is extended as a precautionary measure. Furthermore, surveillance efforts are conducted prior to the commencement of certain fishing seasons to ascertain the absence of right whales.

Elmslie emphasized the critical importance of such protection measures, particularly in light of Oceana’s estimate that only 356 North Atlantic right whales remain, with a mere 70 being reproductive females. The low number of calves born last year, coupled with the unfortunate presumption of calf mortalities, underscores the urgency of conservation efforts.

Looking ahead, Oceana advocates for the implementation of a national strategy focused on whale-safe gear, including the adoption of ropeless fishing gear to mitigate the risk of entanglement, a major threat to whale populations.

As stakeholders continue to navigate the delicate balance between fisheries management and marine conservation, Oceana remains steadfast in its commitment to advocating for stronger protections and innovative solutions to safeguard the North Atlantic right whale population and preserve the health of our oceans.

“We continue to witness distressing instances of whales becoming entangled in Canadian fishing gear, a persistent issue that demands urgent attention,” remarked Kim Elmslie, shedding light on the ongoing challenges faced by marine life. She highlighted the prevalence of “ghost gear,” referring to abandoned or detached fishing gear drifting freely in the ocean, posing grave threats to marine ecosystems.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has proposed ropeless fishing gear as a potential solution to mitigate entanglement risks. This innovative approach involves traps equipped with technology to autonomously sink, with buoys or ropes deployed via a remote mechanism from the fishing vessel. While acknowledging the high cost of implementing such gear, Elmslie expressed hope for government initiatives to facilitate the transition.

In addition to ropeless gear, Elmslie advocated for the adoption of ropes designed to break at lower strengths, enabling entangled whales to free themselves more easily. She commended Canada’s efforts in implementing mandatory gear-marking and reporting protocols, positioning the country as a leader in marine conservation, particularly in comparison to the United States.

Elmslie emphasized Canada’s collaborative approach, noting the active involvement of fishermen in testing ropeless gear and fostering a spirit of cooperation. Despite these positive strides, she stressed the pressing need for further action to prevent the continued loss of whale populations.

With the alarming decline in whale numbers, Elmslie underscored the imperative for sustained efforts to avert extinction. A December statement from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans indicated ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy for whale-safe fishing gear, signaling a commitment to addressing the urgent conservation challenges facing marine life.


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