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Right whale sighting leads to closure of lobster fishing area off northeastern N.B.

A North Atlantic right whale surfaces on Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, Monday, March 27, 2023. The federal fisheries minister says she is “urgently” convening a meeting today with lobster industry representatives after closing a fishing area off northeastern New Brunswick last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty, NOAA permit # 21371

MISCOU, N.B. — Federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier met with the lobster industry on Thursday after the government closed a fishing area off northeastern New Brunswick at the height of the season.

Lebouthillier had said the closure was necessary because an endangered North Atlantic right whale was spotted last week in shallow waters about four kilometres off the coast, east of Miscou Island.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada instituted a 15-day temporary fishing closure in the lobster fishing area known as LFA 23C.

The closure is to run until May 31, and if the whale isn’t detected again, the area would then reopen.

The minister said in a statement Thursday evening that she met with members of the lobster fishing industry, including leadership from the Maritime Fishermen's Union.

"We had a productive discussion about how to address the pressing threat facing the endangered North Atlantic right whales, while accounting for the very real impacts on our lobster harvesters and the communities in which they reside," Lebouthillier said.

Since the initial sighting of the whale, the Fisheries Department reviewed "various data sources" and determined that it was in slightly deeper waters than previously thought, she said, adding that fishers would now be allowed to set traps close to shore.

"I am pleased to see DFO has adjusted the closure requirements and harvesters can now set their traps up to the 10 fathom shallow water protocol management line for the remainder of the 15-day period," she said.

The Maritime Fishermen's Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lebouthillier also said she has asked the department to convene a meeting of a technical advisory committee that includes industry representatives and whale experts to review the existing protocol.

"It is crucial that we achieve the right balance in protecting these whales and while minimizing the impact on the fishing industry wherever possible," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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