North Atlantic Right Whale breaching - Bay of Fundy, Canada

Key Takeaways

  • The last six years there has been a substantial increase in North Atlantic Right Whale entanglements in U.S. and Canadian north Atlantic pot and trap fisheries, creating the need for dynamic management which includes fishery closures to buoy lines.
  • The CanFISH Lending Library was started to provide ropeless pot/trap systems to fishermen so they can continue to fish in closed fishing grounds.
  • In 2022, fully ropeless sets accounted for 370,000 lbs snow crab catch with a 96% overall retrieval success rate in 151 hauls.
  • To access closed fishing areas in the Halifax region, contact the CanFISH lending library.

Over the last decade, the critical habitat for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW) off the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada has expanded in response to changes in environmental conditions with more frequent observations of individuals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This has led to an increase in human-caused deaths of the NARW in Canadian waters, both as a result of ship strikes and entanglement in buoy lines of commercial fishing gear. To decrease entanglements, Canadian fisheries now close lobster and snow crab fisheries for two weeks in regions where NARW are spotted.

The CanFISH Gear Lending Program was created to lend ropeless systems that replace traditional buoy lines to snow crab fishers so they can continue to fish in prime fishing zones when closed due to the presence of NARWs. Ropeless gear is deployed without a buoy line and therefore nearly eliminates the risk of entanglement to whales. In 2022, approximately 500 snow crab traps were fished in closed areas on fully ropeless sets resulting in 370,000 lbs. of snow crab catch. In 151 hauls, there were only 6 failed recoveries (96% success rate) of which only 1 (99% equipment success rate) was determined to be due to a problem with the equipment. The greatest limiting factor in the impact of the CanFISH Gear Lending Program is a shortage of available ropeless systems to lend to fishers and limited financial resources to grow the program.

To learn more, visit the CanFISH Gear Lending Program website and consider donating ropeless gear. If you are a snow crab fisher in the Halifax region and want to have the opportunity to fish in closed regions this next year, you can request partnering with the program on their website.d safe for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.