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How Can the Species be Protected
The Marine Mammal Regulations (SOR/93-56) of the Fisheries Act of Canada govern the management of Harbour Porpoise. These regulations do not address the problem of bycatch of Harbour Porpoise in commercial fisheries. Nor is there any mechanism presently in place for developing scientific advice regarding the sustainability of bycatch levels. Experiments on tools to reduce bycatch levels, such as acoustic alarms or modified nets, have been conducted in the Bay of Fundy. None of the measures investigated have been implemented in the gillnet fisheries of eastern Canada. Limits on gillnet fishing effort, in place to conserve groundfish stocks, may have indirectly benefited Harbour Porpoise by reducing their exposure to potential entrapment but this has not been demonstrated.
In the Bay of Fundy DFO implemented a Harbour Porpoise Conservation Strategy in 1995. A cap of 110 by-caught Harbour Porpoise was instituted. If exceeded, the cap triggers closure of the gillnet fishery. In other Atlantic regions no measures are in place to reduce the number of porpoise killed by fishing gear.
Potential Management Measures
If the Harbour Porpoise is added to Schedule 1 of SARA as a Species of Special Concern, a management plan will be prepared. The management plan will likely expand the management measures taken to protect the species from harm. Fisheries and Oceans Canada wishes to gain a better understanding of how these measures could contribute to the recovery of the species, as well as the potential impacts of these measures on human activities and resource users. Some of the potential management measures listed below will require collaboration with other government departments and agencies to fully implement. Restrictions of activities posing threats or potential threats to the species where it is regularly found may be needed. Future management measures could include but are not restricted to:
- required use of Harbour Porpoise deterrent tools by those deploying gillnets during certain times of year or in certain locations
- restrictions on the use of gillnets
- restrictions on the use of Acoustic Harassment Devices deployed in the marine environment
- guidelines for oil and gas development/seismic exploration
- implementation of a programme to train and place independent marine mammal observers on oil and gas vessels and the increased use of fisheries observers
- potential time/area closures on seismic activity
- potential exclusion of oil and gas activity from areas of high use by Harbour Porpoise
- greater restrictions on waste disposal at sea and infractions subject to higher fines
- Maritime Forces Atlantic may be asked to develop guidelines for activities in areas regularly used by the species (such as for naval exercises and for sonar use)
- strict guidelines may be established for those who wish to carry out research on the species
- modifications to shipping/recreational boating traffic and guidelines for whale watching operators
- more research may be carried out on potential threats to the species and the level of impact of various human activities, especially more research on impacts of gillnets and human-created sounds, including non-military and research sonar
This list is not meant to cover all potential management measures. Other management measures may be proposed as we work through the consultation process and as more research is carried out. If the species is legally listed and proceeds to management planning, there will be further consultation on management measures.
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