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Fisheries minister meets with lobster industry about disputed closures

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2018-04-27 Gabrielle Fahmy
a man standing in front of a store: Dominic LeBlanc said Ottawa had to make decisions based on the data from last summer and he is comfortable with the measures adopted. © CBC Dominic LeBlanc said Ottawa had to make decisions based on the data from last summer and he is comfortable with the measures adopted.

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc is in Moncton on Friday to meet with the lobster industry, after new rules introduced this week to protect endangered whales left fishermen in a state of shock and frustration.

This year's lobster fishing plan for the Gulf of St. Lawrence region, introduced Tuesday, included many of the same protection measures announced in March for the snow crab industry, including controversial "no-fishing" zones.

But lobster fishermen, who say they don't go in waters deep enough for whales, don't understand why they're being put in the same basket as the snow crab fishery.

Ahead of the meeting Friday, LeBlanc told CBC News that whales can't distinguish between crab gear and lobster gear, and he is comfortable with his decision.

He suggested the measures were necessary to avoid a punitive response from the U.S. and to protect the lobster industry.

"Under American law, if a country does not take every reasonable and possible step to protect these highly endangered marine mammals, the American government can decide, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of the United States, that the remedy is to close the American border to imports of fish and seafood from that country, which would have a devastating effect."

a man looking at the camera: New measures were announced by Fisheries and Oceans this week to protect the endangered right whale from potential entanglement in lobster fishing gear. © CBC New measures were announced by Fisheries and Oceans this week to protect the endangered right whale from potential entanglement in lobster fishing gear.

LeBlanc said the lobster industry brings in three times more revenue than the crab industry and he can't put it at risk.

"Fishermen have to be careful not to end up vandalizing their own industry," he said.

Emergency meeting called

The emergency meeting with the minister was requested by the Maritime Fishermen's Union earlier this week.

At least 300 lobster fishermen gathered at the Inkerman community centre Wednesday — an unprecedented turnout, according to officials.

The restrictions include closing a large zone off the northeast coast of New Brunswick for the entire season to avoid fishing gear entanglements.

That's where 90 per cent of the endangered whales were observed last summer.

a close up of text on a black background: Fisheries and Oceans is closing a large zone off the coast of northeast New Brunswick to lobster fishing for the entire season. © CBC Fisheries and Oceans is closing a large zone off the coast of northeast New Brunswick to lobster fishing for the entire season.

Fisheries and Oceans will also implement "dynamic closures" for a minimum of 15 days in areas where a right whale is spotted. The restriction will only be lifted after two consecutive aerial surveillance missions confirm the whales have moved on.

At least 18 North Atlantic right whales have been found dead since last year — 12 in Canadian waters and six off the coast of the U.S.

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

Lobster fishermen at the wharf in Inkerman said it's still too icy to put their boats in the water. © Pierre-Alexandre Bolduc/Radio-Canada Lobster fishermen at the wharf in Inkerman said it's still too icy to put their boats in the water.

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