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Legislative leaders from Maine have called for a ban on the import of Canadian snow crab due to the danger the industry poses to North Atlantic Right whales. Their request to end a 5 year exemption from the Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA) that Canada enjoys is being met with strong push back from the crabbing community and the Canadian government. While nobody here at CFI, or that we know in the world is pro-danger to mammals, there is more to this story than the simple strategy of industry versus nature.
Primarily, we should note a few facts regarding the situation before we scratch the surface:

  • Estimates of current Right whale population in the wild expect there to be no more than 400 living, with only 95 of those being females of reproductive age.
  • 30 whales have been killed since 2017, either by ship strikes or commercial fishing gear entanglements.
  • 14 whale deaths can be attributed to the Canadian snow crab industry by either entanglement or ship strike.
  • The first cohort of Right whales discovered in the Gulf of St. Lawrence happened in 2017 and resulted in 12 entanglement deaths.

Considering those numbers, it doesn’t seem good for the Canadian snow crab industry, however since 2017 when the Canadian government stepped in to regulate the industry, there has only been one whale death due to ship strike and one entanglement. The crux of the argument by snow crabbers is that the US ban and regulations are actually less effective than the Canadian regulations.

Those regulations include – “Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been shutting down quadrants in the gulf for 15 straight days every time a whale is spotted. Traps must be immediately withdrawn from areas that are 10 nautical miles by 7 nautical miles. An airplane flies over the areas twice during the 15-day period. If it sees even one whale, another 15-day period is begun. During the previous two-month snow crab season in the southern gulf (May-June 2019), there were 12 to 15 quadrants closed for nearly three-quarters of the season,” according to Undercurrent News.

Another concern is the safety of the people who work in the crabbing industry as some solutions proposed by the US regulators include weaker ropes that endanger workers. We at CFI are committed to conservation efforts across the world and work hard to support sustainable planning. We hope everyone will look deep into the numbers of how severely the number of whales killed has dropped off thanks to the efforts of the Canadian regulators. These solutions, closing quadrants, air and sea surveillance, and technological upgrades will continue to reduce the number of casualties until the industry is in harmony with the environment. Until that happens, we eagerly support the efforts to reduce the mortality rate.

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