Ottawa will do what is needed to protect ‘majestic’ right whales, minister says

Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc says Ottawa will do whatever is needed to protect right whales and bolster their numbers.

LeBlanc held a briefing this morning in Moncton, N.B., to address the 10 right whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since early June.

He says Canadians have been moved by the deaths, and scientists are currently studying all potential measures and he expects to convene a symposium to finalize the choices.

He says he flew over an area east of Miscou Island in New Brunswick today and saw 15 to 20 right whales — he called it a “majestic” sight.

He says it’s believed there are 80 to 100 right whales currently in the gulf and scientists believe similar numbers will be there next year as they search for food.

LeBlanc says mariners have been asked to take voluntary measures such as slowing to 10 knots and for fishermen to limit the amount of rope they have on the water.

The department has taken other steps to prevent further deaths, including shortening the snow crab season and asking fishermen in the gulf to report any whale sightings.

Collisions with ships and fishing gear entanglements are major threats for the whales.

A final report on the necropsies of several whales is not expected until mid September, and LeBlanc says that will inform final decisions.

Fisheries officials have said the number of right whale deaths is concerning, considering there is an estimated population of about 500.

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