The Canadian government has announced plans to ban commercial fishing and trapping of marine animals, including dolphins and porpoises, by the end of the year.
The move comes amid growing concern about the impact of a ban on commercial fishing.
“The government of Canada is making a significant step forward in the fight against poaching and trafficking of marine species,” Fisheries Minister Peter Kent said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to develop a draft marine conservation strategy that will inform our implementation and enforcement policies.”
Conservationists have long warned that the ban could undermine marine biodiversity and potentially affect dolphins and other marine animals.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also been investigating dolphin poaching, with reports indicating that the practice is spreading to smaller marine ecosystems.
The International Union of Conservation of Natural Capital, an international conservation body, said the ban on dolphin hunting will have a ripple effect on wildlife populations, and could lead to extinction.
The government is hoping that the move will encourage fishermen to come up with innovative and environmentally-friendly ways to harvest and capture fish and other sea creatures, according to a statement from Fisheries Minister Kent.
“It is our hope that these measures will help to ensure that marine species are protected and that these species are not exploited in other ways,” the statement said.
The plan is to be submitted to the federal cabinet in October, and is expected to include measures to protect endangered species and wildlife from fishing.
The ban was first introduced in the late 1990s by former Conservative Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
But after years of criticism from conservationists, the ban was watered down in 2010, to prevent poaching of dolphins, whales, seals, turtles and other animals.
In 2016, the U.N. International Commission on the Status of Women called the ban “a mistake.”
The International Marine Conservation Union has also urged Canada to end its ban on dolphins and seals.
It is working with scientists and fishermen to develop an “eco-friendly” dolphin-capture technology.
“Caught dolphins are not considered ‘caught,’ but are legally regarded as being captured for the purpose of sale,” the group said in its statement.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has also voiced concerns about the move.
“Our members know that dolphins and whales are important for many marine species, but we also know that they are vulnerable to poachers, which are now able to easily access them,” spokesman Dan Stober said in an email to CBC News.
Conservationists will be keeping our ears open to see what other steps will be taken by the government to ensure the survival of these marine mammals.”