Hard-hit by ban, Gulf fishermen in N.B. seek exemption to closure
New efforts to save the right whales threaten to take a toll on fishing families.
The president of the Maritime Fisherman's Union is calling on the government to grant a shallow-water exemption to their fishing bans being brought in to protect the North Atlantic right whale.
Without that exemption, Carl Allen says the future of the fishery is bleak, but he does say that fishermen are on board with efforts to save the endangered whales.
“We don't want to harm right whales, we want to do everything we can to protect them,” he said.
Allen says, however, that fishermen's voices aren't being heard as they ask for a shallow-water exemption in the areas where fishing has been restricted.
Federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc is on the record saying there is documentation out of the United States that shows right whale mothers and their calves do enter shallow waters.
This is where the latest dispute begins.
“Closing areas right up to the shore bank and I have fisherman who have fished up there for 50 years and they have never seen a North Atlantic right whale inside the waters they're asking to be exempt,” he said.
More closures came into effect at noon Sunday and gear must be hauled out of the closed zone. Allen says that affects60 fishermen near Miscou Island in the northern part of the province.
To make up for time lost on the water, Allen says the minister has offered to allow fishing to take place in September.
“Our fishermen aren’t very warm to the idea for a various amount of reasons,” Allen said. “They don't have the science to back up whether you can do it, how it will affect the resource, how will it affect the fishery next spring.”
Allen is worried about the long term viability of the fishing industry should these closures become an annual event with the arrival of the whales.
“I don't think we can continue to operate into the future the way we have this year,” he said.
Allen hopes that isn't the case and says data is being collected this year he hopes will validate the implementation of a shallow-water exemption that will allow the right whale and fishermen to co-exist.
Fishermen in Cap-Pele, N.B., aren't on the water now as their season doesn't start until august. They don't anticipate too many issues because the North Atlantic right whale isn't known to visit the Northumberland Strait, but they are making the mandated changes to their gear just in case.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis.