Oceana Canada Calls on Canadian Government to Adopt Ropeless Fishing Gear to Ensure Lasting Protection for Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales

Press Release Date: March 26, 2024

Media contacts: Vaishali Dassani, Oceana Canada, vdassani@oceana.ca, 647-294-3335; Megan Jordan, Oceana in the U.S., mjordan@oceana.org, 703-401-3004

Ottawa, Canada/Washington, DC  — Today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Transport Canada (TC) announced the 2024 protection measures for North Atlantic right whales.

Below is Oceana Canada’s response from campaign director Kim Elmslie:

“It’s great to see a continued commitment from the Canadian government to protect North Atlantic right whales — a species on the brink of extinction — from the threats of entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes. This past winter, 19 calves were born but one is confirmed dead and two more are presumed dead. This underscores how urgent it is for the government to adopt innovations like ropeless fishing gear. Oceana Canada also calls on the government to make all vessel slowdowns mandatory.

More than 85 per cent of right whales experience entanglement in fishing gear at least once in their lives, so the need to implement ropeless gear for commercial fisheries in Canada is clear. Recent research found that female whales entangled in fishing gear are less likely to reproduce regardless of the severity of the entanglement, which can lead to a slow, painful death. On average, a large whale takes six months to die when lethally tangled. The ropes tighten over time, cutting into their flesh and bones and leading to life-threatening infections and hemorrhages and fins and tail flukes are often totally or partially amputated. This slows whales down and makes it difficult to swim, mate, find food and, in some cases, breathe. While some starve, others drown.

As climate change alters habitat patterns, right whales face increased risks of gear entanglement and vessel strikes. Investing in innovative technologies such as ropeless fishing would allow fishing activity and large marine mammals to coexist. Mandatory slowdowns are also important to protect whales from ship strikes.

Additionally, given that lobster and snow crab fisheries generate more than $3 billion annually it is crucial to implement robust, sustained measures to mitigate whale entanglement. It is essential not only to protect the 356 remaining right whales but also safeguard Canada’s access to the lucrative U.S. seafood market under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Oceana Canada is urging swift action from the government to protect whales from entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes.” 

Gib Brogan, campaign director for Oceana in the United States had the following reaction:

“Once again, Canada is leading the way to protect North Atlantic right whales from their two leading threats: entanglement with fishing gear and vessel strikes. The U.S. has a long way to go to catch up to Canadian protections for right whales. President Biden has the opportunity and responsibility to reverse the decline of this species and must immediately approve the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s proposed updated boat speed rules. Protecting North Atlantic right whales from boat strikes in more times and places with meaningful mandatory protections is long overdue. Further delays from the U.S. government will only lead to more tragic deaths in U.S. waters, like those that we have already seen this year. President Biden must approve stronger protections now before it’s too late.”


Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to ban single-use plastics, end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future. Find out more at www.oceana.ca.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 300 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.orgto learn more.