N.S. Indigenous fishery to shut down for two weeks due to endangered right whales in area
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's Sipekne’katik fishery has announced a two-week shutdown due to the presence of endangered North Atlantic right whales in the area.
Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack and council approved the temporary two-week closure of their treaty fishery at a council meeting on Tuesday.
“We have and will continue to operate with conservation as our foremost concern, the presence of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale in the region has resulted in the immediate decision to suspend our fishery activities in the Roseway Basin critical habitat area, as identified by DFO’s grid system,” said Sack in a release.
Ottawa said this week that starting Thursday evening, fisheries operating within certain sections of the Roseway Basin would close until further notice to protect the whales, which can become entangled in fishing gear.
The department's temporary closure affects one of the province's most lucrative lobster fishing zones, known as LFA 34, and comes days before the federally regulated lobster fishing season in the area is set to start.
“We will collaborate with others who are committed to protecting our marine environment which our fishery is dependent on for future generations,” added Sack on Wednesday.
A local aquatic species researcher says the decision to shut down fisheries in the area is necessary to protect the endangered animals.
"We've taken ourselves from having more than 10 animals being killed in Canadian waters, down to none," said Fred Whoriskey, executive director at the Ocean Tracking Network, which is affiliated with Dalhousie University.
Whoriskey says tools such as underwater gliders that track acoustic signals, as well as aerial drones, are helping keep the animals alive.
The U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently estimated the right whale population has dropped dramatically, to 366 in 2019 down from 412 in 2018.
Other fisheries in the affected area include crab, herring and mackerel. Groundfish vessels using fixed gear will be prohibited from operating in the zone.
With files from the Canadian Press.