Notice of permit

Regional or Local Number: DFO- GLF-2017-01

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 73 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. DFO- GLF-2017-01 is issued.

Scientific research for the conservation of the species

The primary purpose of this project is to continue with the long-term population study of North Atlantic Right Whales that monitors the status of the population, reproduction, mortality, behaviours and human-caused scarring events in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This will be achieved through performing vessel based surveys and approaching individuals of the North Atlantic Right Whale in order to photograph and collect skin biopsy samples using a crossbow and biopsy darts. Rescue activities for North Atlantic Right Whales might take place, as needed, to disentangle whales from gear or to refloat stranded or beached individuals. In a rescue situation, there may also be temporary possession of a whale during transportation or relocation. Dead whales may be transported to another location for necropsies.

Start Date: 2017-06-01   End Date: 2020-12-31

Issuing Authority: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Authority Used:

  • Species at Risk Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • Atlantic Ocean

Affected Species:

a) Alternatives: The project is designed to overlap with the possible timing of right whale presence in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in an attempt to better understand habitat use in the area. Annual photo-identification of individuals helps define the demographics of this small population, and enable the monitor of the status of the population, reproduction, mortality, behaviors, and human-caused scarring events, this method poses little risk to whales. The photo-id work is done in conjunction with genetic, hormone, parasite, and health studies, allowing a more comprehensive and integrated picture of population status in a single study. Vessel based surveys are the best at providing the highest amount of multi-user data. Whales are approached a minimum number of times by one vessel in order to obtain information for several studies simultaneously. The team on the photo-identification vessel will obtain photographs for individual identification, health assessments, and scarring analyses, selectively obtain biopsy samples for genetic studies, as well as fecal samples used to assess hormone and steroid levels, parasite loads, and biotoxin exposure. In addition, the team on the research vessel assesses, report, and stand-by any encountered entangled whale with minimal approaches by the vessel. Aerial surveys are best for coving large areas in a limited amount of time. However, in areas with possible long dive times (>10 minutes) and/or lack of large aggregations, adequate coverage from aircraft surveys is difficult. Therefore, a vessel based survey is still the best-suited method for research on North Atlantic Right Whale valuable information about absence or presence of right whales within their range. b) Measures to minimize impact: Close approaches will be conducted by qualified individuals at low speeds in a controlled manner. Whales will not be approached closer than 5 meters. Whale shall only be approached through a maximum of three dive cycles to collect a sample. If a whale avoids the vessel for three surface breathing bouts, or demonstrates a distinct negative change in behaviour, attempts to sample that animal shall cease. Reasonable measures (e.g. comparison of photo-identification) shall be taken to avoid repeated sampling of an individual. Biopsies will be collected using biopsy darts no larger than 0.5cm in diameter and 4 cm in length. Prior to sampling, darts should be appropriated sterilized. Biopsies shall not be taken anywhere forward of (anterior of) the pectoral fins. Biopsy attempts shall be discontinued if an animal exhibits a strong adverse reaction to the activity or the vessel. All rescue activities shall be performed by qualified individuals who have been trained based on existing protocols. c) Effects on survival and recovery: None of the research proposed will jeopardize the survival of right whales. Impacts from the proposed research are relatively benign, with primarily short-term behavioral impacts. If right whales are detected during surveys, this research will contribute to a greater understanding of right whale distribution in the Gulf Region and be provided to DFO for their assessments and to further species recovery efforts.

Contact Person(s)
Richard Ruest
Regional Manager, Species at Risk Program
Gulf Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
P.O. Box 5030
343 Université Ave.
Moncton, NB
E1C 9B6