Oceana Canada Urges Canadian Government to Provide Permanent Protection for Near-Extinct North Atlantic Right Whales
Press Release Date: March 31, 2023
Ottawa, traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People — Today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Transport Canada (TC) announced the 2023 protection measures for North Atlantic right whales. Below is Oceana Canada’s response from campaign director Kim Elmslie:
“Oceana Canada is happy to see a continued commitment to protect North Atlantic right whales. With today’s announcement, there is no weakening of the measures from last year and the government will continue to apply adaptive management measures to protect these critically endangered whales from fishing gear entanglements and vessel collisions – both of which are human-caused, threaten the recovery of this critically endangered species and can be prevented.
Oceana Canada is pleased to see a commitment to test and implement whale-safe fishing gear. We are concerned about the inclusion of low-breaking-strength rope in this strategy, as it has not been proven to protect whales. Ropeless and on-demand gear provides the best opportunity to allow fishers to access closed areas without risking the safety of critically endangered whales, thus allowing fishing and whales to coexist.
Without strong, sustained measures, this whale population is heading toward extinction, with only 340 animals left and of which there are only 80 females of reproductive age. Every action to protect this species from extinction is urgent. The 2023 federal budget proposal to provide $151.9 million over three years to protect endangered whales and their habitats is a welcome step.
Canada now needs a permanent management framework to protect these whales that provides certainty around decision-making, is inclusive of all interested parties, makes all information publicly available and is adaptable to these whales’ changing needs.
Protecting right whales also protects Canada’s access to the lucrative U.S. seafood market under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Two of our most valuable fisheries – lobster and snow crab, worth more than $3 billion annually combined – must have measures in place to mitigate whale entanglements, or risk losing access to this market.”
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.