Hundreds more fishermen in Atlantic Canada are being drawn into the effort to protect endangered right whales this year.
Specially coloured fishing gear rope will become mandatory with the start of the season in every lobster and crab fishery in Eastern Canada. The rope must identify the region, species being fished and individual fishing area.
The requirement is also intended to maintain access to the U.S. seafood market by demonstrating Canada has rules comparable to those in place for fishermen south of the border.
The details were spelled out in a notice to fish harvesters that was issued by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on Dec. 20, and make good on a promise made by the federal government earlier in 2019.
“The new requirements are part of the government of Canada’s continuing efforts to improve tracking of gear, address ghost gear and further identify management measures threats to marine mammals, in particular North Atlantic right whales,” the notice says.
DFO says further management measures to protect the right whale will be announced in the coming weeks.
Why this is happening
The United States Marine Mammal Protection Act requires seafood imports to be caught under fishing rules equivalent to whale protection measures in place in the United States.
Gear marking is mandatory in U.S. trap fisheries.
After almost two dozen right whales have died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the past three years, some American politicians, fishermen and environmentalists said Canadian fishing regulations are too lax.
Without further protections, they are calling for a ban on some Canadian seafood.
Brian Guptill, a lobster fisherman on Grand Manan Island, N.B., said it’s all about keeping the border open for Canadian seafood.
“In order to prove that we’re not the problem, gear marking is the solution,” Guptill said.
The notice spells out the colour schemes to be braided into rope used in all non-tended, fixed-gear fisheries in Eastern Canada. One colour will signify the DFO region, another the species and, for lobster and crab fisheries, a third colour will identify individual fishing areas within each region.
The scheme has been designed to distinguish between Canadian and U.S. fishing gear involved in whale entanglements.
Gear marking will be mandatory for ropes attaching gear to the primary buoy. They are known as vertical lines and are seen as the threat to whales from fishing.
A tracer line — a silver transparent tape inside the full length of rope — will be permitted as an alternative.
The tracer line must identify the country, region, species and fishing area.
Mandatory gear marking is already in place for some fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
About 150 lobster fishermen on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore will be among the first impacted by expanded gear marking when their season opens in April.
“They’re well behind the 8-ball getting to us. There’s some colours involved that we don’t even know the availability of,” said Peter Connors of the Eastern Shore Fisherman’s Protective Association.
He said he’s not aware of a single entanglement in his area.
“If they cause some protection, they do some good then. The fishermen will do whatever they can do to comply,” Connors said.
Other fisheries to be impacted
Fourteen fisheries will operate with new colour schemes at some point in 2020.
By landed value, the most significant species affected are lobster and snow crab.
But cod, shrimp and squid trap fisheries, longline and gillnet fisheries are also being assigned mandatory colour schemes.
The interlaced coloured strands must be a minimum of 15 centimetres in length and, at minimum, will be required at the top, middle and bottom of the vertical line, or every 27 metres.
Guptill, also president of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association, is resigned to what is coming.
“Any rope that isn’t marked is going to be blamed on Canada or any fishery that it isn’t marking its rope. So you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he said.
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Overcoming scandal and PTSD, Japan’s Princess Mako finally marries college sweetheart
Japan‘s Princess Mako, the emperor’s niece, has married her commoner college sweetheart on Tuesday and left the royal family after a years-long engagement beset by scrutiny that has left the princess with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mako and fiance Kei Komuro, both 30, announced their engagement four years ago, a move initially cheered by the country. But things soon turned sour as tabloids reported on a money scandal involving Komuro’s mother, prompting the press to turn on him. The marriage was postponed, and he left Japan for law studies in New York in 2018 only to return in September.
Their marriage consisted of an official from the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), which runs the family’s lives, submitting paperwork to a local office in the morning, foregoing the numerous rituals and ceremonies usual to royal weddings, including a reception.
Mako also refused to receive a one-off payment of about $1.3 million typically made to royal women who marry commoners and become ordinary citizens, in line with Japanese law.
Television footage showed Mako, wearing a pastel dress and pearls, saying goodbye to her parents and 26-year-old sister, Kako, at the entrance to their home. Though all wore masks in line with Japan’s coronavirus protocol, her mother could be seen blinking rapidly, as if to fight off tears.
Though Mako bowed formally to her parents, her sister grabbed her shoulders and the two shared a long embrace.
In the afternoon, Mako and her new husband will hold a news conference, which will also depart from custom. While royals typically answer pre-submitted questions at such events, the couple will make a brief statement and hand out written replies to the questions instead.
“Some of the questions took mistaken information as fact and upset the princess,” said officials at the IHA, according to NHK public television.
Komuro, dressed in a crisp dark suit and tie, bowed briefly to camera crews gathered outside his home as he left in the morning but said nothing. His casual demeanour on returning to Japan, including long hair tied back in a ponytail, had sent tabloids into a frenzy.
Just months after the two announced their engagement at a news conference where their smiles won the hearts of the nation, tabloids reported a financial dispute between Komuro’s mother and her former fiance, with the man claiming mother and son had not repaid a debt of about $35,000.
The scandal spread to mainstream media after the IHA failed to provide a clear explanation. In 2021, Komuro issued a 24-page statement on the matter and also said he would pay a settlement.
Public opinion polls show the Japanese are divided about the marriage, and there has been at least one protest.
Analysts say the problem is that the imperial family is so idealised that not the slightest hint of trouble with things such as money or politics should touch them.
The fact that Mako’s father and younger brother, Hisahito, are both in the line of succession after Emperor Naruhito, whose daughter is ineligible to inherit, makes the scandal particularly damaging, said Hideya Kawanishi, an associate professor of history at Nagoya University.
“Though it’s true they’ll both be private citizens, Mako’s younger brother will one day become emperor, so some people thought anybody with the problems he (Komuro) had shouldn’t be marrying her,” Kawanishi added.
The two will live in New York, though Mako will remain on her own in Tokyo for some time after the wedding to prepare for the move, including applying for the first passport of her life.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
EU countries splinter ahead of crisis talks on energy price spike
Divisions have deepened among European Union countries ahead of an emergency meeting of ministers on Tuesday on their response to a spike in energy prices, with some countries seeking a regulatory overhaul and others firmly opposed.
European gas prices have hit record highs in autumn and remained at lofty levels, prompting most EU countries to respond with emergency measures like price caps and subsidies to help trim consumer energy bills.
Countries are struggling to agree, however, on a longer term plan to cushion against fossil-fuel price swings, which Spain, France, the Czech Republic and Greece say warrant a bigger shake-up of the way EU energy markets work.
Ministers from those countries will make the case on Tuesday for proposals that include decoupling European electricity and gas prices, joint gas buying among countries to create emergency reserves, and, in the case of a few countries including Poland, delaying planned policies to address climate change.
In an indication of differences likely to emerge at the meeting, nine countries including Germany – Europe’s biggest economy and market for electricity – on Monday said they would not support EU electricity market reforms.
“This will not be a remedy to mitigate the current rising energy prices linked to fossil fuels markets,” the countries said in a joint statement.
The European Commission has asked regulators to analyse the design of Europe’s electricity market, but said there was no evidence that a different market structure would have fared better during the recent price jump.
“Any interventions on the market and the decoupling of [gas and power] pricing are off the table,” one EU diplomat said, adding there was “no appetite” among most countries for those measures.
Other proposals – such as countries forming joint gas reserves – would also not offer a quick fix and could take months to negotiate. A European Commission proposal to upgrade EU gas market regulation to make it greener, due in December, is seen as the earliest that such proposals would arrive.
With less than a week until the international COP26 climate change summit, the energy price spike has also stoked tensions between countries over the EU’s green policies, setting up a clash as they prepare to negotiate new proposals including higher tax rates for polluting fuels.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has dismissed such plans as “utopian fantasy”, a stance at odds with other EU countries who say the price jump should trigger a faster switch to low-emission, locally produced renewable energy, to help reduce exposure to imported fossil fuel prices.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
Bad weather off Canadian coast preventing efforts to board container ship after fire
Sixteen crew members were evacuated from the MV Zim Kingston on Saturday. Five remained onboard to fight the fire, which was largely under control by late Sunday.
The company has appointed a salvage crew “but due to the current weather, (they) have been unable to board the container ship”, the coast guard said on Twitter.
“The containers continue to smolder and boundary cooling – spraying water on the hull and on containers near the fire – continues,” it added.
The ship is anchored several kilometers (miles) off the southern coast of Vancouver Island, in the province of British Columbia. There is no impact to human health, the coast guard said.
Danaos Shipping Co, the company that manages the ship, said on Sunday that no injuries had been reported on board.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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