'Aggravation' expected when part of lobster fishing area closes, fisher says
The upcoming closure of part of a lobster fishing area in Prince Edward Island will lead to crowding in nearby fishing areas, says a Malpeque Harbour fisher.
Chris Wall is among those being asked by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to remove all their gear from a portion of lobster fishing area 24 before it closes on Tuesday at 5 p.m. due to the confirmed sighting of a North Atlantic right whale.
The closed portion goes from approximately Tignish to New London.
The closure will force people to come into other areas to fish, Wall said.
"It will affect the bottom line because I think you're going to find more people in a smaller area trying to catch the same amount of lobsters," Wall said. "So … it will affect everybody. It's just going to cause some aggravation, for sure."
The North Atlantic right whale is listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act.
The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association said in a release Friday the whale was off the Island's northern coast.
The closure is limited to waters deeper than 10 fathoms, just over 18 metres, and fishers are allowed to fish in waters shallower than the 10-fathom protocol line, the PEIFA said.
"There's some fishermen here that fish exclusively in deep water, so now they have lost their bottom," Wall said.
The closure is scheduled for 15 days. If the whales are sighted between Days 9 and 15, the area will remain closed until Nov. 15, according to DFO protocol. The area will reopen if there are no sightings, the PEIFA said.
Wall said he notices the whales now come into the area sooner than in the past.
"This is the start of a slippery slope of whale closures probably because global warming hits and the water warms up and whales are here earlier," he said. "We're concerned that this is only the tip of the iceberg of what we may see in the future."
He said Island fishers have made a lot of efforts the last few years to prepare for the situation when entanglement could happen.
Wall isn't aware of any right whale ever getting caught in lobster fishing gear on P.E.I., he said.
"Until there's an entanglement, I think we should be able to fish as we have fished," he said.
Some areas that could be affected by the closure according to the PEIFA are:
DFO has an interactive map of right whale sightings.