Announcement of the closure protocol for Gulf, Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec regions fixed gear fisheries in case of North Atlantic Right whale presence

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – Gulf, Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec Regions announce the implementation of fisheries management measures in 2019 for the protection of the North Atlantic right whale (NARW). The protocol for dynamic management of fisheries will allow the DFO to temporarily close specific areas to fishing activities carried out with non-tended, fixed gear in order to prevent incidents with NARW, such as entanglements. If NARW are present in designated areas subject to temporary closure, the DFO will close fishing grids that are used for closing the snow crab fishery according to the soft shell crab protocol, among other uses. These measures could be adapted as needed during the season.

Observations inside a potential foraging area

When at least one NARW is observed inside the identified potential foraging areas or NARW critical habitat (dynamic zones), the DFO will close a total of nine grids to create a buffer area around the sighting location to account for whale movements.

Observations outside a potential foraging area

For areas that fall outside of the designated season-long and temporary closure areas, closures will be considered on a case-by-case basis with special consideration for sightings of three or more whales, or a mother and a calf pair.

Closing and reopening of the areas

Closures will be in force for a minimum period of 15 days from the date of the NARW sighting. The closure duration will include the gear removal period (minimum 48 hours, or longer, depending on weather conditions) and will be extended by 15 days from the last NARW sighting in the closed area. If no NARW are seen in the closed area during at least two aerial surveillance flights during the 15 days period, the nine closed grids will be reopened. When the area is reopened, DFO will inform industry prior to its reopening. Closures and openings will be regulated through Variation Orders and Notices of Closure, among other tools. When licence holders are notified of a closure by a notice issued on a commercial or maritime radio station, by a notice transmitted electronically or by a notice given orally by a fishery officer or a fishery guardian, they will have a minimum of 48 hours (or longer depending on weather conditions) to retrieve fishing gear from the area prior to closure.

In water less than 20 fathoms depth

Non-tended, fixed gear fisheries conducted in waters shallower than 20 fathoms within designated dynamic zones will be subject to dynamic management protocols only if one or more NARWs are observed in waters less than 20 fathoms. If one or more NARWs are seen in waters more than 10 fathoms and less than 20 fathoms depth, the quadrant where the whale has been sighted and adjacent quadrants will be temporarily closed to the 10 fathoms line. Harvesters will be required to move their gear close to the shore inside the 0-10 fathom area. Harvesters will be allowed to continue to fish in the areas shallower than 10 fathoms in this circumstance. If one or more NARWs are observed in waters less than 10 fathoms deep, the quadrant where the whale has been sighted and adjacent quadrants will temporarily close to shore.

Static closure

DFO will implement a static closure in an area where 90% of the NARW observations occurred in 2018 during peak fishing season in order to create a large area free of non-tended, fixed fishing gear for the NARW, thus reducing the risk of a NARW interacting with non-tended, fixed gear and traps. The fishing closure have been in effect as of April 28, 2019. The coordinates for the closed area are as follow:

Points Position
North Latitude West Longitude
1 48° 20' 00" N 63° 50' 00" W
2 47° 40' 00" N 63° 50' 00" W
3 47° 40' 00" N 64° 00' 00" W
4 47° 30' 00" N 64° 00' 00" W
5 47° 30' 00" N 64° 20' 00" W
6 47° 50' 00" N 64° 20' 00" W
7 48° 00' 00" N 64° 10' 00" W
8 48° 10' 00" N 64° 10' 00" W
9 48° 10' 00" N 64° 00' 00" W
10 48° 20' 00" N 64° 00' 00" W
11 48° 20' 00" N 63° 50' 00" W

The reference coordinates are based on the North American Datum 1983 (NAD83) geodesic system and are expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds.

Figure 1. Map showing the static closed area and areas subject to temporary closure that came into effect on April 28, 2019.

For additional information

Regular updates and sightings maps