Local Researchers Hail Canadian Effort to Protect North Atlantic Right Whales

CANADA – Local marine researchers are hailing a proposal from the Canadian government to use their $400 million Atlantic Fisheries Fund and an innovation prize to develop new fishing gear or technologies in order to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The effort was listed among the agency’s “key action items” at a meeting last week.

A dozen of the whales have turned up dead in Canadian waters this past summer alone, four more were found of the U.S coast, the most recent of them washing up on Martha’s Vineyard. Many of the animals have died as a result trauma after being struck by a fishing vessel or an entanglement with fishing gear.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE: A carcass of a North Atlantic right whale was recently found off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

“What’s going on in Canada in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence these mortalities are very much a local story, that is Cape Cod and Massachusetts waters,” said Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.

“It’s quite important to realize that so that what goes on there very much our problem and visa versa.”

The Canadian plan calls for introducing a requirement for a 300 foot buffer zone between vessels and many marine mammals, right whales included.

The government is also weighing a plan to introduce aerial surveillance to monitor right whale feeding areas.

Other options under consideration include the reduction or modification of fishing gear, reducing the number of boats permitted to be on the water at a time, imposing stricter speed limitations on boats in the area or the whales, or moving up the start of fishing season to a time before the whales migrate north.

Mayo says that, whatever it may be, it is time for serious action on the crisis, “There’s no doubt that the present trajectory, the direction the population is going, is in a steep downward course and the future is, to be quite honest, if it keeps going the way that is that is, is extinction.”

Officials estimate that only about 450 North Atlantic right whales remain in existence.

By DAVID BEATTY, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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