Canada institutes gear-marking requirements in right whale protection efforts

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Canada is instituting new requirements for the country’s lobster and crab fisheries, partially intended to help coordinate protection of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The new measure involves specially marked gear rope that will be required for roughly 14 fisheries, with all lobster and crab traps in Eastern Canada coming under the new rule, according to the CBC. According to a notice from the DFO, the requirements are part of the country’s effort to address ghost gear and to measure threats to marine mammals, particularly right whales, in the region.

Each rope will now be required to have special colored markings, along with identifications that delineate the region, species being fished, and individual fishing area that the rope is being used in.

The new requirements come as signs point to the United States potentially putting more pressure on Canada to increase protections for the endangered whales in the wake of multiple deaths related to entanglement in fishing gear.

Two U.S. senators from the state of Massachusetts – Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren – recently sent a letter to NOAA Fisheries asking for the organization to examine Canada’s conservation standards, and whether or not the country is doing enough to prevent entanglement-related deaths with right whales. Under the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act, all seafood imports must be caught under fishing rules that have equivalent whale protection measures to the U.S. Currently, all trap fisheries in the U.S. have gear marking standards.

That rule was used in 2018 to ban all imports of gillnet-caught seafood from vaquita habitat, a ban that was later unsuccessfully challenged multiple times by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Each rope will consist of color schemes braided into the rope; one color signifying the DFO region, another the species, and a third identifying individual fishing areas within the region. One example given is a rope with green and orange strands, representing the Quebec region and the species fished, respectively. The colors are required to be a minimum of 15 centimeters in length, and at a minimum must be present at the top, middle, and bottom of the vertical line, or every 27 meters.

Tracer lines will also be permitted as an alternative to the colors, as long as the line identifies the same information.  

Photo courtesy of Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada


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