Snow crab fishermen in northern New Brunswick are getting more than $2 million over three years to help test technologies aimed at reducing the risks of North Atlantic right whale entanglements in fishing gear.

The funding for the Acadian Crabbers Association comes through the $400-million Atlantic Fisheries Fund, which is jointly funded by Ottawa and the region's provincial governments.

The fishermen began testing ropeless trap systems last year.

The standard traps currently used by fishermen use a rope that's suspended in the water column with a buoy at the top — gear that poses a potentially deadly hazard for whales that end up entangled.

Although no right whales died in Canadian waters in 2018, 12 were found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2017.

Necropsies on seven of those whales found that four died from trauma consistent with vessel collisions, while two deaths were the result of entanglement in fishing gear.

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the funding announced Tuesday aims to balance the protection of the endangered right whale with support for the work of thousands of fishermen who "rely on the sea for their livelihoods."

"The technologies developed and tested through this project are helping the seafood industry move towards greater sustainability," Wilkinson said in a news release.

The latest estimates suggest fewer than 420 of the endangered North Atlantic right whales remain.