OTTAWA, Oct. 5, 2017 /CNW/ - The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) released a report today titled "Incident Report: North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017," which includes findings from necropsies performed this summer on six of the dead North Atlantic Right Whales. The CWHC report was prepared and released in partnership with the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) following an unprecedented number of North Atlantic Right Whale mortalities this past summer.
In response to the report, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, issued the following statement:
"This has been a tragic summer for the North Atlantic Right Whale population and we are deeply concerned about the future of these marine mammals. We are grateful for the comprehensive report issued today by the CWHC. It will guide our next steps to address this complex situation and ensure our decisions are based on the best available science and information.
"This report is the result of many weeks of analysis, research and collaborative work by a devoted team of veterinarians, pathologists and scientists. We thank them for their commitment to this important task.
"Following the deaths of 12 North Atlantic Right Whales this summer, our responsibility is to continue to take action to ensure these marine mammals are protected for future generations. The report confirms that the biggest threats to the right whale continue to be vessel strikes and entanglements.
"These results show that the steps taken so far this summer to slow down ships and to close some fisheries were warranted.
"On July 20, 2017, Minister LeBlanc directed Fisheries and Oceans Canada to close the Snow Crab Fishing Area 12 in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. This was done to protect North Atlantic Right Whales from the risks posed by snow crab fishing gear in the area. The Minister also directed that other fisheries in the area be limited, delayed or closed for the same reason.
"In August, Transport Canada imposed a temporary mandatory speed restriction for vessels 20 metres or more to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, and a voluntary slowdown for vessels under 20 metres. As of October 2, penalties have been issued by Transport Canada to four vessels that did not respect the mandatory speed restriction.
"We will continue to monitor the migration of the whales and the efficiency of our measures in order to act accordingly, based on evidence. We are committed to doing what is necessary to help keep our right whales from harm, and we are considering all options in order to protect this iconic species. North Atlantic Right Whales typically migrate out of our waters by December which will allow the Government of Canada to meet over the next few months with the fishing and marine transportation industries, Indigenous communities, whale experts and scientists, and the United States' National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The consultations will be part of an open and transparent process that will lead to changes next summer aimed at protecting these endangered animals from further harm."
Read the full Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative report (Incident Report: North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017)
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SOURCE Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada
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