Fisheries Service is proposing that East Coast trap/pot fishermen get six
additional months to switch from floating to sinking
groundline, a conversion that will help reduce the risk of entangling
large whales in fishing gear.
Atlantic right whale entangled in line, visible across the head
and trailing in the water beneath the whale past its tail. (Credit:
Line and a buoy are wrapped around the tail of this right whale. (Credit: NOAA)
NOAA is proposing the
extension to ensure all crab and fish trap/pot operations, which are newly
required to use modified gear, understand they are affected by the requirement and how to comply. The extension would
also apply to American lobster trap gear, which has been managed under
rules for reducing entanglement risk since 1997.
believes that the extension will have minimal effect on entanglement
risks to large whales. The extension will occur during months when
trap/pot fisheries are less active, so less gear is being used. Whales are not aggregating at this time in areas where the majority of pot/trap gear is set. In
addition, all other risk reduction measures that went into place in
October 2007 remain in effect and are unchanged.
There has been and will continue to be considerable outreach to fishermen on the new requirement through NOAA's liaisons to industry, an advisory panel with industry leaders, environmentalists and elected officials, and through informational pull-outs published in trade publications.
proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on Friday, June 6, and public comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. on July 7. To view the proposed
rule and instructions on submitting comments visit
http://www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/regs/com.html If the extension is
implemented, sinking groundline—the line that connects multiple
traps/pots when the gear is set—will be required by April 5, 2009,
rather than October 5, 2008.
Between 2002 and 2006,
NOAA’s Fisheries Service confirmed 314 deaths among large whales along
the U.S. East Coast and adjacent Canadian Maritimes. Of these, the
majority, 249, were of undetermined cause, 21 were caused by
entanglement, 27 by collisions with ships, and 17 by other causes.
During these four years, NOAA confirmed a total of 145 whale
entanglements and 43 collisions between whales and ships.
Several species of large whales are subject to entanglement, including
the North Atlantic right whale, which is also one of the most
endangered. Since 1996, NOAA’s Fisheries Service has been working to
eliminate this threat through a program of research, consultation with
stakeholders, and regulatory actions. Gear requirements and special
management areas have been a large part of this effort.
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