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Fishing-gear threat to right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) in Canadian waters and the risk of lethal entanglement

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Commercial fishing gear can potentially entangle any whale, and this is especially true for the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), for which entanglement is second only to vessel strike as being responsible for documented right whale deaths. We use right whale survey data and Canadian fishing-gear deployment data to estimate the relative threat of gear entanglement in a Scotia–Fundy study area and the relative risk of lethal entanglement in the Bay of Fundy and on Roseway Basin, Scotian Shelf, where Critical Habitat has been legislated. We focus on groundfish and pelagic hook-and-line; groundfish gillnet; and crab-, hagfish-, and inshore and offshore lobster-trap gear. Our analyses demonstrate that groundfish hook-and-line gear poses the greatest threat to right whales among the seven gear types analysed during the summer-resident period in Critical Habitat and that gear from the lobster fisheries poses the greatest threat during the spring and autumn periods when whales are migrating to and from Critical Habitat. We suggest that area-specific seasonal closures of some fisheries would reduce threat and risk to whales without unduly compromising fishing interests.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, P.O. Box 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-12-23

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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