Procrastination Can Pay Off, But Not For The Right Whale

20may2003_245entangledrightwhaleNOAA’s 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.
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.
NOAA 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
The proposed rule will publish in the Federal register on Fri., June 6
and public comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Mon., July 7. Click the following link to
view the proposed rule and for instructions on submitting comments.

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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