Diverse Stakeholders Come Together to Address Northern Right Whale Regulations

Friday, 11 January, 2008
Boston, MA
The International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) held a landmark “Lobster Gear Summit” today in conjunction with the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association (AOLA), connecting regional lobstermen groups with fishing gear manufacturers, federal and state fisheries officials and rope-recycling specialists for a day of information sharing, fact-gathering and strategic planning. The meeting was held in order to discuss what is needed for industry-wide compliance toward recent equipment mandates issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Held at the Hyatt Regency Boston, the daylong symposium was deemed a success by participants and organizers, as well as an important move in ensuring a less hazardous marine environment for the endangered north Atlantic right whale.
“Saving the right whale requires collaboration and shared commitment,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW Global Whale Program Manager. “Nearly three quarters of endangered right whales have scars from entanglement in fishing gear, and it remains one of the biggest threats to the survival of the species.  IFAW is using this Summit to find ways to help hard-working fishermen and lobstermen come into compliance with the new gear regulations designed to save whales.”
Discussions centered on the implications of new regulations on the fishing industry, where nearly 12,000 state-permitted lobstermen reside in Massachusetts alone, along with commercial lobstermen along the Eastern seaboard. Regulations mandating use of “whale-friendlier” sinking groundline in lobster gear were finalized by NMFS in October 2007 and are scheduled to take effect October 5, 2008.
“I was happy to meet with all parties involved including IFAW, NMFS, and AOLA, and it was particularly useful to have everyone in the same room given the urgency of the October deadline.” Stephen Kakes, Sales Representative of Conigliaro Industries.
With population estimates thought to number between 300-400 individuals, north Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered species in the world. Lobster gear entanglement is the second leading cause of north Atlantic right whale deaths.   The sinking groundlines called for in the NMFS regulations are significantly safer for whale species than the floating groundlines currently in use, which drift upwards between traps and can easily entangle the whales, causing injuries or death to the animals as well as destroying the gear.
“This Summit is an example of how AOLA and IFAW are serious about finding answers for the challenges of compliance.” Says Bonnie Spinazzola, Executive Director, AOLA.  “Bringing all the stakeholders together is a first step toward meeting these challenges.”
About the Atlantic Offshore Lobsterman's Association
The Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association seeks to promote the sustainable use of fishery resources. To that end, AOLA works to advance resource conservation and responsible management practices and to promote cooperation among government, industry, and the scientific community. AOLA works on behalf of industry by raising awareness of lobster-related issues in order to ensure plentiful stocks for generations to come.

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