Acadie-Bathurst M.P. working diligently to address challenges caused by fishing zone closure

Acadie-Bathurst's MP says he's working diligently to address the impact fishing zone closures, aimed at protecting North Atlantic right whales, will have on the local fishing industry.

Serge Cormier says he realizes that the recent closure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are expected to have an impact on EI benefits and that the 2018 budget earmarked $240 million to come up with solutions to issues faced by workers in seasonal industries.

But Cormier says the world is watching how the issue is being handled and that the closures are about more than protecting the critically endangered animals.

He says if the government doesn't demonstrate it's doing everything possible to protect the whales, it risks losing access to American and international markets fish and seafood products.

Cormier has already recommended a later fishing season, possibly in the fall, to help make up the number of fishing days lost because of the closures.

Meanwhile, Cormier says the government will announce 'significant funding' in the coming weeks to support the development and production of 'whale-safe' fishing gear.

He says the new gear is expected to modernize the way fish and seafood products are harvested and will have a positive impact on the long-term sustainability of all fisheries.

While some harvesters have said they'll fish the closed zones anyway, Cormier urges them to avoid any activity that could possibly compromise the economic viability of the fishing industry.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has reiterated that it's committed to enforcing the law and that individuals contravening laws and regulations are at risk of facing severe penalties.

Cormier says Fishery Officers and the Canadian Coast Guard will have a visible presence on the water during the closures and that the minister has the authority to rescind licenses if harvesters are found not to be respecting the conditions of their license.

He intends to meet with fisheries stakeholders once the season wraps up to ensure protection measures for next fishing season are more flexible, while still maintaining a high level of protection for the right whales.