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Study offers 'a bit of a window' into iconic young salmon stocks on East Coast

posted Mar 20, 2019, 5:23 AM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Mar 20, 2019, 5:23 AM ]

Study offers 'a bit of a window' into iconic young salmon stocks on East Coast

Atlantic salmon

An Atlantic salmon leaps while swimming inside a farm pen near Eastport, Maine, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008, in Eastport, Maine. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)


    Published Thursday, December 13, 2018 9:00 AM AST 

    ST. ANDREWS, N.B. -- A 14-year tracking study is giving scientists an unprecedented range of data on young Atlantic salmon in four major East Coast rivers.

    The iconic species is famous for drawing anglers to the region, but researchers wanted to know more about their juvenile survival rates.

    The findings, by the Atlantic Salmon Federation in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ocean Tracking Network, are in a paper published Thursday in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

    "The study started just due to interest and a lack of understanding as to how these fish are behaving and their survival as they are migrating downstream," said Jason Daniels, a research scientist with the federation and report co-author.

    "Acoustic telemetry has allowed us to have a bit of a window into what's going on."

    The complex technical study tracked more than 2,800 juvenile wild Atlantic salmon, known as smolt, from populations in four rivers that empty into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They include the Southwest Miramichi, Northwest Miramichi, and Restigouche rivers in New Brunswick and the Cascapedia River in Quebec.

    Smolt were collected each spring as they made their way downriver and were tagged with small acoustic transmitters that monitored migration speed and survival rates.

    "Across the 14 years of study survival estimates varied without trends for the population of the Chaleur Bay, but declined for the populations migrating through Miramichi Bay," the study report says.

    The collected data indicated that fish survival depended on factors such as smolt size, distance travelled to open water, the conditions encountered, and the presence of predators.

    "There was a positive size-dependent probability of survival through the freshwater and estuary areas," says the study. "The odds of survival of a 16 centimetre smolt were 1.5 to 1.7 times higher than for a 13.5 centimetre smolt length at tagging."

    Survival rates for smolt tagged in the Restigouche and Cascapedia through their shared estuary Chaleur Bay fluctuated from year-to-year but remained relatively high -- 67 to 95 per cent over the 14-year period.

    Those rates were initially similar for smolt leaving the Southwest and Northwest Miramichi rivers and into Miramichi Bay, but that changed in 2010 when a "pronounced downward trend" began with survival rates fluctuating between 28 and 82 per cent.

    The drop in survival rates on the Miramichi was attributed to a rise in the population of the predatory striped bass population. The spawning population of striped bass in the river increased from about 15,000 at the beginning of the study to about 300,000 by 2016.

    "The spawning period overlaps in timing with the downstream smolt migration," says the report. "Atlantic salmon smolts have been identified in stomachs of striped bass sampled from the Miramichi."

    Other factors affecting the smolt survival estimates may include water chemistry in the Northwest Miramichi watershed and changing experimental conditions.

    Daniels said the higher mortality numbers for the Northwest Miramichi are a cause for concern given that the average return rate of smolts to the river is around two to three per cent.

    "When you see 80 to 90 per cent of those smolts disappearing just in the estuary before they even get to the ocean, you really scratch your head and wonder how you are going to see three or four per cent of those smolts make it back as adults," he said.

    The study confirmed that most mortality takes place in the first few days or weeks after smolt leave fresh water. However, the researchers said fish survival improves as the smolt move offshore.

    "The estuary is where the majority of the mortality seems to be occurring," said Daniels. "These fish have lived their entire lives in a freshwater environment and they are undergoing a lot of different physiological changes, so they are already in a state where they are stressed out."

    Aside from adapting to a saltwater environment, he said they also have to deal with another set of predators, so the results really aren't that surprising.

    "Being able to study multiple rivers at once across multiple years allows you to see these trends and compare them to rivers that don't have the same types of pressures," said Daniels. "You can see the relative impact some of these pressures may be having on particular populations of salmon."

    - By Keith Doucette in Halifax

    Building blocks of ocean food web in rapid decline as plankton productivity plunges

    posted Dec 23, 2018, 5:35 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Dec 23, 2018, 5:49 PM ]

    Building blocks of ocean food web in rapid decline as plankton productivity plunges

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    Senior DFO scientist says the cause of the collapse is unknown

    Jane Adey · CBC News · Posted: Dec 22, 2018 5:00 PM NT | Last Updated: 4 hours ago
    Falling plankton numbers is another blow for fisheries like crab and shrimp which have been in decline. (CBC)

    They're teeny, tiny plants and organisms but their impact on ocean life is huge.​

    Phytoplankton and zooplankton that live near the surface are the base of the ocean's food system. Everything from small fish, big fish, whales and seabirds depend on their productivity.

    "They actually determine what's going to happen, how much energy is going to be available for the rest of the food chain," explained Pierre Pepin, a senior researcher with the Department of  Fisheries and Oceans.

    Pepin says over the past 3-4 years, scientists have seen a persistent drop in phytoplankton and zooplankton in waters off Newfoundland and Labrador.

    "Based on the measurements that we've been taking in this region, we've seen pretty close to 50 percent decline in the overall biomass of zooplankton," said Pepin. "So that's pretty dramatic."

    Measuring 5 mm or less, phytoplankton contain chlorophyll to capture sunlight and use photosynthesis to turn it into chemical energy which is later eaten by ocean creatures. (Photo courtesy of DFO)

    Scientists say local testing reveals half the amount of plankton in a square metre of water today. It's not just a problem here, declining plankton numbers are a global phenomena.

    It's a difficult idea to convey to the average person who might not understand the ocean ecosystem, but Pepin likens it to walking into a grocery store and instead of seeing the shelves full, they're only half full.

    Listen to Jane Adey's coverage on CBC Radio's The Broadcast

    The Broadcast
    The base of the ocean food chain is in trouble
    00:00 23:16
    Hear about the problems for plankton. Reaction time to an offshore oil blow out. Can it be improved? 23:16

    "You know if you saw half the number of birds, if you saw half the number of fish in the water you'd pay attention. Well, this is a signal to say we need to pay attention."

    Alarm bells are going off 

    So what's causing this dramatic decline?

    Scientists here haven't detected anything in particular that can be linked to the plunge in productivity, but they are worried.

    Phytoplankton are tiny plants and zooplankton are tiny animals. Zooplankton feed on phytoplankton near the surface of the ocean. (Photo courtesy of DFO)

    "When it persists — for in our case now for three or four years — in the back of my mind, at the very least, little alarm bells start going off because it means that something fundamental may have changed in the food web."

    Pepin says it is difficult to understand how long it takes the effect of this lack of basic food to make its way through the ocean ecosystem.

    Scientists have to advise managers on how to handle fish stocks but without clear evidence of causes and effects, it becomes a very difficult job.

    "How do we act on this, this is a real challenge."

    Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

    DFO orders fisheries closure in Bay of Fundy

    posted Jun 19, 2018, 7:27 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Jun 19, 2018, 7:51 PM ]

    DFO orders fisheries closure in Bay of Fundy after right whale sighting

    Lobster fishermen fear for livelihood in wake of Monday’s announcement

    Colin McPhail · CBC News · Posted: Jun 18, 2018 11:06 PM AT | Last Updated: June 18
    In this Wednesday March 28, 2018 photo, a North Atlantic right whale feeds off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. Fishermen in certain parts of the Grand Manan Basin have to get their gear out of the water Thursday after endangered North Atlantic right whales were spotted in the area. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)The federal government announced Monday evening the first temporary fisheries closure in the Bay of Fundy as a result of a North Atlantic right whale sighting.The area, just east of Grand Manan, will be closed to fixed-gear fishing activities starting at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement. It said the closure, which affects lobster, crab, groundfish, herring and mackerel licenses, will remain in place until further notice.

    The Grand Manan Basin is a critical habitat area for the whales.

    ALERT ⚠️: New temporary fisheries measures will be in place next to areas temporarily closed to help protect North Atlantic . 

    It's believed to be the first closure of its kind ever in the bay, according to Laurence Cook, chairman of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association lobster advisory board.

    Cook was busy fielding calls and texts from "angry and upset" members after government informed the association around 6 p.m. Monday, he said.

    The association has been closely following the tension surrounding a series of closures in waters off northeastern New Brunswick after dozens of whale sightings in the area. Frustration is mounting with hundreds of fishermen concerned for their livelihood.

    A map showing where the fishing area closures are located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (CBC )

    Those sentiments are now being shared with their counterparts in the island community off New Brunswick's southern coast.

    'It's a massive hit'

    About 40 boats, roughly a third of the Grand Manan fleet, will be impacted, Cook said, estimating about 150 workers — on and off shore— could be affected as they enter the "most prosperous time of the season."

    "The lobster is the engine that drives Grand Manan's economy," he said. "It's a massive hit."

    Cook said he was holding his breath after a right whale was spotted off Grand Manan on Saturday.

    The association argued its case with DFO officials in Dartmouth on Monday before Ottawa made the final decision. Cook said their unblemished track record to avoid harming whales fell on deaf ears.

    In 2006, fishermen voluntarily developed a mitigation strategy to not disturb whales, he said. That involved reporting whale movements and modifying equipment to reduce the chance of entanglements.

    "It isn't fair for the government to shut us down because crab gear 1,000 kilometres away killed two right whales last year," he said.

    19 dead whales

    Necropsies on seven of the whales that died last year showed four died of blunt force trauma from collisions with ships, while two more appeared to die from being entangled in fishing gear.

    Since January 2017, there have been 18 deaths of North Atlantic right whales in U.S. and Canadian waters — 12 off the Canadian coast and six off the U.S. A whale carcass found last week in Virginia is the 19th.

    Last year 17 North Atlantic right whales died in Canadian and U.S. waters. Another two have been found dead off the U.S. coast this year.(Shane Fowler/CBC)

    To date, there are only 100 breeding females remaining in a population of about 450 North Atlantic right whales.

    Up to 75 right whales have been spotted in the southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence so far this year, officials said.

    Since the beginning of the fishing season for lobster, snow crab and other species, the federal government has closed six fishing areas because of the presence of whales. More closures are scheduled to come into effect Thursday.

    The fishery closure is just one of the measures taken by the department to try to save North Atlantic right whales. New rules also require ships to slow down in some areas.

    Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc met with representatives of the Maritime Fishermen's Union in Moncton last Friday but did not agree to relax the closures.



    Gulf of Maine Council Annual Recognition Awards

    posted Jun 11, 2018, 4:06 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Jun 11, 2018, 4:23 PM ]

    Nancy Aiken receives - 2018 VISIONARY AWARD 

    Gulf of Maine Council Annual Recognition Awards

    The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment has over the years recognized efforts by individuals, groups or organizations that seek to protect, enhance and restore the ecosystem of the Gulf of Maine region and safeguard and improve the wellbeing of the communities that depend on its resources. The Council has established awards to bestow on individuals and organizations for their exemplary work as stewards of the ocean. Each year the Council accepts nominations for the awards which include: Visionary awards, the Sustainable Community awards, the Industry award, the Art Longard award, and the Susan Snow-Cotter award. A description of each award can be found below.  Awards are presented at a special ceremony in June of each year. Nomination forms will be posted on this page during the annual awards nomination period.

    Gulf of Maine Visionary Awards

    Up to two individuals, businesses, or organizations within each state and province bordering the Gulf of Maine will be selected to receive Visionary Awards (paid professionals or volunteers are eligible). The awards recognize innovation, creativity, and commitment to protecting the marine environment. Recipients may work in the fields of environmental science, education, conservation or policy. They may be engaged in projects that involve public awareness, grassroots action, or business/manufacturing practices.

    Gulf of Maine Sustainable Community Award

    Each year, the Gulf of Maine Council recognizes a community, or group within a community, for exemplary work in achieving sustainability outcomes related to the environment and economy, that are in line with the objectives of the Council’s Action Plan.

    Gulf of Maine Industry Award

    The Gulf of Maine Industry Award is made annually to one individual, company, or organization within the Gulf of Maine region (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia). The Award recognizes demonstrated innovation and leadership in efforts to improve the well-being of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and the communities that call it home. Nominations are sought from the following sectors: tourism; fisheries (commercial and recreational); aquaculture (finfish and shellfish); renewable energy generation (tidal, wave and wind) and; transportation (shipping, ferries, etc.).

    Longard Volunteer Award

    The Council presents this annual award to an outstanding volunteer within the Gulf watershed who has made significant contributions to conserving or managing the Gulf’s resources. Past recipients have been involved in stewardship projects, educational programs, volunteer monitoring and scientific research. The award is named in memory of Art Longard, a Nova Scotia resident and devoted conservationist who helped to conceive and launch the Gulf of Maine Council. 

    Susan Snow-Cotter Leadership Award

    The Susan Snow-Cotter Leadership Award is bestowed in memory of Susan Snow-Cotter, a long-time friend of the Council and Working Group. The Award is given to an individual from one of the five states and provinces bordering the Gulf of Maine. The Susan Snow-Cotter Leadership Award honors those coastal management professionals who exemplify outstanding leadership or exceptional mentoring in the Gulf of Maine watershed. As former Director of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Susan was recognized as a leader who exhibited unwavering passion, enthusiasm, and insight to develop pragmatic approaches to coastal management challenges.

    Congratulations to the Gulf of Maine Council’s 2018 award winners.

    Photo:  Award winners at June 5, 2018 Awards Reception, The Gloucester House, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

    Gulf of Maine Council 2018 Awards Winners.doc 

    News Release

    New rules sprung on lobster fishermen to protect endangered whales

    posted May 1, 2018, 3:31 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated May 1, 2018, 3:34 PM ]

    New rules sprung on lobster fishermen to protect endangered whales

    Season won't open at all in one area off northern coast of New Brunswick

    Gabrielle Fahmy · CBC News · Posted: Apr 24, 2018 12:41 PM AT | Last Updated: April 24
    New measures have been announced by the federal government to protect the endangered whales from potential entanglement in lobster fishing gear. (CBC)

    Parts of the water off the coast of New Brunswick will be closed to lobster fishing this season to protect the North Atlantic right whale, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has told lobster fishermen.

    It's one of several new measures that will affect the lobster industry, after a historically deadly summer for the endangered whales.

    Until now, the focus was mostly on snow crab fishing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, after necropsies revealed at least three whales likely died as a result of entanglement in fishing gear.

    ​But Tuesday's notice reveals many of the same measures announced in late March for the crab fishery will be applied to lobster fishing in the gulf as well.

    Lobster fishermen reacted with surprise and disappointment and suggested the new rules were mostly about the federal department's public image.

    Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, said the lobster industry only found out two weeks ago that Fisheries and Oceans was contemplating restrictions on them to protect whales.

    He said lobster fishermen tried to suggest other solutions but the federal department didn't listen.

    2 kinds of closures

    Although lobster fishermen usually stay closer to shore than crab fishermen do, Ottawa believes they could venture into zones where the right whales will be found.

    A "static closure" will be implemented off the northern coast of New Brunswick from April 28 — two days before the season begins and for its duration, until June 30.

    The closure area is one where where 90 per cent of the right whales were observed last ummer.

    The yellow zone in the Gulf of St. Lawrence represents the one that will be off access all season to lobster fishermen. (DFO)

    Fisheries and Oceans will also enforce what it calls "dynamic closures" in other areas, meaning wherever a right whale will be spotted this season, the area around it will be closed for a minimum of 15 days.

    Those closures would be lifted once two consecutive aerial surveillance missions confirm the whales have moved on.

    Other measures lobster fishermen will now have to follow include:

    • Reducing the amount of rope floating on the surface of the water.
    • Reporting all lost fishing gear.
    • Informing Fisheries and Oceans of all interactions with a marine mammal, including bycatch, collisions and all sightings of entangled marine mammals that occur during fishing expeditions.
    • Reporting any sighting of live, free-swimming whales to Fisheries and Oceans.
    The 2017 summer was a historically deadly one for the endangered North Atlantic right whale. (Stephan Savoia/Canadian Press)

    These measures will affect all lobster fishermen in the gulf region in fishing zones 23, 24, 25 and 26.

    Mallet, of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, said its members are experts in fishing, and the union has scientific experts as well, yet Ottawa didn't seek their collaboration in coming up with a plan.

    "It is mainly the process that is deplored," he said. "Our members do not feel listened to and feel excluded, as if it is taken for granted that these measures do not concern them."

    At least 18 north Atlantic right whales have been found dead since last year — 12 in Canadian waters and six in U.S waters.

    Necropsies on seven of the carcasses found last year determined four whales died of blunt force trauma from collisions with ships, and the other three likely died from entanglements in fishing gear.


    New Protections For Fish and Their Habitat

    posted Feb 8, 2018, 11:50 AM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 11:58 AM ]

    Government of Canada introduces new protections for fish and their habitat

    News Release

    From Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Ottawa, Ontario – From coast to coast to coast, Canadians have signaled their strong passion for protecting the fish and fish habitat that play such a vital role in our environment, our communities and our livelihoods. Today, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced amendments to the Fisheries Act that would restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards to protect our fish and their habitat for generations to come.

    The Government of Canada is putting in place better rules to protect our environment. The proposed amendments introduced today would restore the protections to all fish and fish habitats that were lost with changes that were made in 2012. Proposed changes would also put in place new modern safeguards to help our communities by better managing projects, enhancing marine protection and allowing the sustainable use of our resources while protecting them for our future.

    The government will invest up to $284.2 million to support restoring lost protections to fish and incorporating modern safeguards.

    As part of the Government of Canada’s Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes, the Government of Canada is restoring protections and rebuilding trust. Fisheries and Oceans Canada consulted broadly, hearing from thousands of Canadians, to ensure changes to the Act focus on the areas that matter most to Canadians. The new Fisheries Act reflects what we heard from two rounds of online public consultations, over a hundred meetings with partners, stakeholders and Indigenous groups, and recommendations from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

    Photo legend: The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announces amendments to the Fisheries Act that would restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards to protect our fish and their habitat for generations to come.

    Additional Multimedia

    The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard


    “To preserve, protect and help restore our environment we need a Fisheries Act that Canadians can trust. Today, I am pleased we are introducing amendments to the Fisheries Act that will restore the protections for fish and fish habitat that were lost under the previous government. We are responding to calls from Canadians who told us clearly that the health of our fish and ecosystems is important to them, and that they want us to protect and rebuild fish habitat. By restoring lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards, we are creating a Fisheries Act for the future to preserve our precious resources for generations to come.”

    The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

    Quick Facts

    • The proposed amendments would:

    • restore lost protections by returning to comprehensive protection against harming  all fish and fish habitat;

    • strengthen the role of Indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring and policy development;

    • recognize that decisions can be guided by principles of sustainability, precaution and ecosystem management;

    • promote restoration of degraded habitat and rebuilding of depleted fish stocks;

    • allow for the better management of large and small projects impacting fish and fish habitat through a new permitting framework and codes of practice;

    • create full transparency for projects with a public registry;

    • create new fisheries management tools to enhance the protection of fish and ecosystems;

    • strengthen the long-term protection of marine refuges for biodiversity;

    • help ensure that the economic benefits of fishing remain with the licence holders and their community by providing clear ability to enshrine current inshore fisheries policies into regulations; and

    • clarify and modernize enforcement powers to address emerging fisheries issues and to align with current provisions in other legislation.

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    Vincent Hughes
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Media Relations
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada



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    New snow crab fishing rules

    posted Jan 23, 2018, 7:21 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Jan 23, 2018, 7:23 PM ]

    New snow crab fishing rules rein in use of ropes to protect
    North Atlantic right whales

    At least 17 of the endangered mammals were killed in Canada and U.S. waters last year

    By Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon, CBC News
    Posted: Jan 23, 2018 7:45 AM AT Last Updated: Jan 23, 2018 8:26 PM AT

    Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the new measures will be enforced on wharves and at sea.

    Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the new measures will be enforced on wharves and at sea. (CBC)

    Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc has announced four changes to the snow crab fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to protect North Atlantic right whales from entanglement, including reducing the amount of rope floating on the surface and mandatory reporting of all lost gear.

    'We're expecting 100 per cent compliance.'- Dominic LeBlanc, federal fisheries minister

    The new management measures will take effect immediately and will be enforced "very aggressively," LeBlanc said during the news conference in Moncton on Tuesday.

    A "series" of other measures will be announced in the coming weeks and months, said LeBlanc, but he wanted to announce these steps now to allow the industry time to prepare for the upcoming season, which normally begins around mid-April, depending on the amount of ice.

    The government will "most likely" impose speed restrictions for vessels again, LeBlanc told reporters, but the primary responsibility for that belongs to Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau, he said.

    Last summer, Transport Canada imposed a mandatory 10-knot speed limit in the western part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for vessels 20 metres or longer to help reduce the risk of whale strikes and to improve the chances of survival for any whales struck.

    Other pending crab fishery measures will relate to the number of traps permitted this season and the possibility of using Coast Guard ice-breakers to start the season sooner, said LeBlanc.

    That would allow fishermen to catch their quota and remove their gear from the water as early as possible, "hopefully reducing the risk of contact with the whales."

    whale, Miscou Island

    Scientists estimate only 450 to 500 North Atlantic right whales are left in the world, following the deaths of at least 17 in Canada and U.S. waters last year. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

    Scientists have advised the government North Atlantic right whales could be back in the gulf as early as April, Transport Canada communications adviser Julie Leroux said.

    It is not possible to predict how many will return, said Leroux, "due to the variability" observed in recent years.

    The government will also invest "many millions of dollars" in "very high-tech, state-of-the-art detection and monitoring equipment" that will help protect North Atlantic right whales on the East Coast and killer whales on the west coast, said LeBlanc.

    At least 17 North Atlantic right whales died in Canadian and U.S. waters last year.

    Necropsies on seven of the carcasses determined four whales died of blunt force trauma from collisions with ships, while the other three likely died from entanglements in fishing gear.

    'Extremely dire' 

    There are only an estimated 450 to 500 of the whales left in the world.

    Of those, only about 100 are breeding females, said Kim Davies, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University and an expert on North Atlantic right whales.

    The situation is "extremely dire," she said.

    Any measures that help to reduce the amount of fishing line in the water, especially slack line on the surface, "is a very good step," said Davies.

    Right whales tend to spend a lot of time at the surface — coming up to breathe, feed and socialize, she said. "So this slack line really represents a high entanglement risk." 

    right whale entangled (international fund for animal welfare)

    Whales can travel hundreds of kilometres while entangled in fishing gear, said Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc. (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

    The normal life expectancy of the animals is about 70 years, "but we kill them [through fishing gear entanglements and collisions with vessels] by the ages of 20 to 30."

    Based on the current rates of mortality and populations growth, researchers expect all of the breeding females will be dead within two decades, said Davies.

    "So every whale counts. Every whale that we can stop from becoming entangled counts toward saving the population."

    An unprecedented number of the right whales appeared in the gulf last year, which scientists suspect is related to climate change forcing the whales to find new sources of food.

    Colour-coded ropes, numbered buoys

    Under the new crab fishing rules, a maximum of 3.7 metres (two fathoms) of rope can be used when attaching a secondary buoy to a primary buoy, said LeBlanc.

    Previously, there has been no restriction on the amount of rope used, he said, noting the government heard about "dozens of metres" of rope being used in some cases.

    Fishermen will also be required to add metal weights to portions of the rope that attaches a crab trap to a primary buoy to ensure the rope is vertical and not floating on the surface of the water once the crab trap has been set.

    Snow Crab Quebec

    The snow crab fishing season normally begins around mid-April, but the government is exploring the possibility of starting it sooner to help reduce the risk of whale entanglements. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

    That rope will now be marked with the colour specific to the fishing area in which they're authorized to fish, which will help officials identify the place of origin of any future entanglements, said LeBlanc.

    Research has shown entangled whales can travel "hundreds of kilometres" away from the area where they first came into contact with the fishing gear, he said.

    Similarly, each buoy will be marked with a sequential number to identify where it came from and lost gear must be reported, along with its last-known GPS position.

    This will help the government understand how much fishing gear is lost annually and determine if it needs to assist with retrieval efforts, said LeBlanc.

    'Rigorous' inspections

    Conservation protection officers will be inspecting gear "rigorously" on wharves and at sea before and during the season, said LeBlanc.

    "We're expecting 100 per cent compliance," he said, pointing out some of the new measures were suggested by the industry itself.

    "They have shown an enormous desire to collaborate with us," said LeBlanc. "So I don't imagine there will be much tolerance from the fishing industry for members … who choose not to respect these conditions."

    Anyone who doesn't "will face the consequences."

    The new requirements will be included in a harvester's licence conditions, department spokesperson Krista Petersen later told CBC News.

    "A person found by a fishery officer to be in contravention of the regulations may be charged with an offence that can result in punishment ranging from fines to an indictable offence," she said.

    The minister said it will be up to prosecutors and judges to determine the penalties, in accordance with the Fisheries Act.

    "But I am saying publicly that we will regard these as serious offences and our investigating officers will be treating these are serious offences and will be working with prosecutors and others to ensure the seriousness of these offences is understood."​

    To help fishermen transition to the new requirements, conservation protection officers will be available immediately to answer questions, LeBlanc said.

    No decision yet on rescues

    Joe Howlett rescue

    The late Joe Howlett using a long pole with a knife attached to cut a whale free from fishing gear before his fatal accident last summer. (Canadian Whale Institute/New England Aquarium)

    Whale rescues, suspended last summer after Campobello Island fisherman Joe Howlett was killed trying to free an entangled whale, remain on hold for now, said LeBlanc.

    But he hopes to announce a "Plan B" before the whales return.

    "Until I'm satisfied that we have a safe operational plan, I cannot in good conscience allow people's safety to be put in jeopardy, but I'm encouraged … that we'll be able ot arrive at a safe plan," he said.

    U.S. fisheries service being sued

    In the United States, conservation and animal-protection groups are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service, alleging it failed to protect right whales from entanglement in commercial fishing gear.

    The lawsuit alleges the federal management of the U.S. lobster fishery violates the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

    It seeks to force the agency to do a sufficient examination of the fishery's impact on North Atlantic right whales and take more steps to prevent entanglements. 

    With files from Shift

    Minister LeBlanc considers all options to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale from further harm

    posted Nov 10, 2017, 12:50 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Nov 10, 2017, 1:07 PM ]

    Minister LeBlanc considers all options to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale from further harm

    News Release - 2017-11-10

    From Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Moncton, New Brunswick – Canada’s commitment to protecting the North Atlantic Right Whale was front and centre at a roundtable meeting led by the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

    Minister LeBlanc met with representatives from fishing organizations, marine transportation industries, cruise lines, ferry associations, Indigenous peoples, whale experts and scientists, as well as the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to discuss concrete actions which can be taken to better protect the right whale in Canadian waters.

    This roundtable is just one part of a comprehensive approach to ensure these marine mammals are protected for future generations.

    Moving forward, the Government of Canada will work with partners on many of the specific proposals that were discussed throughout the day, which include:

    •      Actively exploring opportunities to adjust existing fishing gear immediately to reduce the risk of entanglements.
    •      Testing new gear technologies that would reduce the amount of rope in the water and lower the risk of whale entanglements.
    •      Adjusting fishing seasons to avoid periods when right whales congregate.
    •      Implementing measures to reduce lost fishing gear that poses a risk to whales and other species.
    •      Enhancing whale sighting and detection information, and timely sharing of this information among all those concerned.
    •      Considering seasonal speed restrictions in target areas and adjustments to shipping lanes based on accurate and timely whale sightings information.
    •      Improving the collaboration and coordination across industry sectors, governments and non-governmental organizations to leverage the expertise on the protection and recovery of the North Atlantic Right Whale.

    The collective expertise gathered in this forum and the proposed actions will help inform government policy on reducing the impacts of human activity on right whales and to protecting our waters and marine life for generations to come.


    “Everyone around the table understood the urgency of this situation, and the need to take concrete actions to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale. Having experts, industry representatives, scientists and Indigenous communities participate in these meetings brings a more diverse and complete understanding of the situation. This discussion was profoundly helpful in assessing the long-term options available to our government. We will work quickly to ensure the survival and recovery of this iconic species.”
    The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

    Quick Facts

    • The roundtable meeting stems from an unprecedented 12 North Atlantic Right Whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from June to September 2017.

    • The Government of Canada’s $1.5 billion investment in the Oceans Protection Plan includes measures that will address threats to marine mammals in Canadian waters and enhance capacity to respond to marine mammal incidents.

    • In summer 2017, Canadians were invited to share their views through the Let’s Talk Whales consultation aimed at helping the recovery of the North Atlantic Right Whale, the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga and the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Almost 20,000 people participated and contributed over 200 ideas in response to the question “How can we, as Canadians, take action now to reduce impacts on at-risk whales and help their recovery?”

    Associated Links



    Media Relations
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Laura Gareau
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada 



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    Government of Canada is investing in science capacity and jobs at the St. Andrews Biological Station

    posted Nov 10, 2017, 12:38 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Nov 10, 2017, 1:03 PM ]

    Government of Canada is investing in science capacity and jobs at the St. Andrews Biological Station

    News Release - July 2017

    From Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    St. Andrews, NB - The Government of Canada is committed to using scientific evidence to inform marine management decisions. Investments in science will help protect our oceans and ensure that our fisheries and aquaculture sectors provide meaningful employment for Canadians for generations to come.

    The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard today announced that the Government of Canada continues to implement investments of $8.9 million at the St. Andrews Biological Station, Atlantic Canada’s oldest marine research facility. The investments continue to focus on upgrades to the laboratories to support ocean science research and improve the building’s accessibility, safety and security. 

    Minister LeBlanc also announced that 15 new scientists, biologists, hydrographers and other science professionals will be located at the Station. These new employees will support healthy fish stocks and ecosystems, and sustainable aquaculture. They will also do important work to help protect our marine environments and communities from the potential effects of oil spills and day-to-day vessel operations.

    Some of these new employees will be hired under the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, which will improve marine safety and responsible shipping, and protect Canada’s coastal habitats, ecosystems and marine species. Others will be hired under the $197.1 million Budget 2016 investment in ocean and freshwater sciences.

    Through the Oceans Protection Plan and Budget 2016 investments, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is hiring 254 science professionals across the country.

    Photo legend: The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced funding in support of scientific research and 15 new science positions at the St. Andrews Biological Station.


    “The St. Andrews Biological Station has made significant contributions to marine science since 1908, and our government is pleased to be investing in improved infrastructure and in rebuilding DFO’s scientific capacity. Our investment in infrastructure and science staff will ensure that this facility can continue to conduct world-class scientific research for many years to come.”

    The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

    “The St. Andrews Biological Station is recognized as a world-class research facility. Further investment in infrastructure and new scientific staff signals our government’s strong commitment to both science and economic growth in the region. We are already seeing a marine industry cluster develop around this centre and that will continue to grow with today’s announcement.”

    Karen Ludwig, Member of Parliament, New Brunswick Southwest


    Quick Facts

    • Founded in 1908, the St. Andrews Biological Station conducts scientific studies focussed on the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine, as well as regional coastal ecosystems and traditional fisheries. A large portion of research is done in collaboration with universities, environmental groups, and the aquaculture and fishing industries.

    • The infrastructure upgrades are funded under the Federal Infrastructure Fund.


    Media Relations
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Laura Gareau
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada


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    Huntsman Marine Science Centre receives $6.6 million to boost N.B. aquaculture sector

    posted Nov 9, 2017, 1:19 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Nov 9, 2017, 1:19 PM ]

    Updated: September 14, 2016 4:30 pm

    Huntsman Marine Science Centre receives $6.6 million to boost N.B. aquaculture sector

    By Video Journalist  Global News

    WATCH ABOVE: A key component of the aquaculture sector in New Brunswick is receiving millions of dollars in government funding to go toward two projects. As Global's Andrew Cromwell reports officials believe it will result in more business and new jobs.

    - A A +

    A significant investment in the aquaculture industry in southwestern New Brunswick could mean dozens of new high-paying jobs. The federal and provincial governments announced $6.6 million for the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews for a pair of projects.

    Ottawa, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, is contributing about $5 million. The provincial government will come up with most of the rest of the money. The Huntsman Centre and Northern Harvest Sea Farms are also investing in the projects.

    READ MORE: New Brunswick government releases its vision plan for economic growth

    One of the projects will see the amount of salt water pumped into the centre for various research projects tripled, which officials hope will attract more research.

    “We have potential clients that we are waiting to have the asset in place to entice to come and increase our business here at the Huntsman,” said Science Centre chairman Fraser Walsh.

    It’s hoped business will double over the next four years and that more than 20 new jobs are created. Currently, more than 45 people work at the centre.

    The other project involves new programs that aim to increase fish health and disease resistance.

    “We’re in a global industry so these kind of programs are being done and supported significantly by governments in countries like Norway, Scotland and Chile, so we have to do it to keep up,” said Larry Ingalls, president of Northern Harvest Sea Farms in St. George.

    The Huntsman Marine Science Centre is hoping to see the business growth over the next four years.


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