Sunday, June 10, 2018

Go Their Own Way

Dead Right Whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Right whales off the east coast and killer whales on the west coast have one terrible thing in common, they are both dying thanks to the fishing activities of humans.  On the east coast the whales are getting tangled up in crab trap gear and on the west coast the over fishing of Chinook salmon is causing starvation. As a bonus, both species are also having to deal with being run over by large ships and putting up with the underwater noise they generate.

Dead Killer Whale on the beach at Sechelt
When the whaling industry was in full swing the North Atlantic right whale was the preferred species to hunt because they were slow moving, close to shore, and floated after they were killed. It's impossible to know how many North Atlantic right whales once existed but we know there are only about 450 left and, with 17 of them getting killed last year (12 alone in the Gulf of St. Lawrence) they are now considered an endangered species. Likewise with the Southern resident killer whale population which now has only 76 individuals remaining and is also listed as endangered.

Right Whale Mother & Calf in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
To try and protect the right whales from ship collisions the Canadian government has brought in speed restrictions of 10 knots maximum in the western part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence where the whales come to feed with their calves in summer. To try and protect the whales from all the fishing gear they are opening the snow crab season earlier and closing it sooner so that hopefully there won't be any traps in the area when they arrive. Meanwhile in the Juan de Fuca/Georgia Strait area of the west coast the commercial fishery for Chinook salmon has been completely shut down and limits put in place for recreational fishing as well.

Killer Whale in Georgia Strait
As summer approaches we can only cross our fingers and hope these measures will help these poor creatures survive. In spite of the vastness of our oceans things can get crowded pretty quickly when human activity comes up against the animals living there. It would be so much better for the whales if we focused our fishing efforts on aquaculture and let the whales go their own way.

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