Getting tangled in fishing gear is one of the main threats to right whales along with bumping into ships.

Getting tangled in fishing gear is one of the main threats to right whales along with bumping into ships.
Photo Credit: International Fund for Animal Welfare/CBC

Changes made to protect endangered right whales

The Canadian government has issued new directives in a bid to protect the endangered North Atlantic Right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There are about 525 of these creatures left in the world and seven have died there recently.

Fishing area closed, reduced speed requested

Canada’s department of fisheries and oceans has broadcast notices asking the commercial fishing and shipping industries to watch for the whales. It is also requesting that mariners voluntarily reduce their speed in certain shipping lanes until the end of September. And it has implemented a partial closure of a snow crab fishing area that the whales frequent.

 Seven right whales have been found dead since the beginning of June 2017.
Seven right whales have been found dead since the beginning of June 2017. © Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Ship bumps, entanglement are biggest threats

The government is working with partners to analyse the whale carcasses to find out why the animals died. Preliminary results show one died from entanglement in fishing gear and two others appear to have collided with ships. These are the two biggest threats to right whales which feed in shallow waters close to shore.

The minister responsible for fisheries has expressed condolences to those who knew Joe Howlett. The Canadian volunteer died on July 11, 2017 right after cutting the last line entangling a right whale.

Joe Howlett, seen here with his son, died freeing a right whale on July 11, 2017.
Joe Howlett, seen here with his son, died freeing a right whale on July 11, 2017. © Facebook/CBC

Canadian rescues to continue

Shortly after,  the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suspended all rescues of entangled large whales.  Canadian authorities show no no sign of suspending the rescues it undertakes in cooperation with volunteers.

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