IFAW and Atlantic Offshore Lobsterman’s Association to Host Whale Friendlier Lobster Gear Summit

Thursday, 3 January, 2008
Yarmouth, MA
To advance dialogue between animal conservation groups and fishing associations seeking practical solutions to North Atlantic Right Whale entanglement and compliance toward approaching equipment mandates, the International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) and Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association (AOLA) have joined forces to host a cohesive “Lobster Gear Summit” January 11th, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. The summit, scheduled from 10:00 A.M. - 3:00 P.M. at the Hyatt Regency Boston, will connect lobstermen’s associations from Maine to Rhode Island, fishing gear manufacturers and distributors, federal and state fisheries officials, and rope recycling representatives for an intense day of information sharing, fact-gathering and strategic planning in preparation of new regulations on lobster gear set by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
“Saving the right whale requires collaboration and shared commitment.  Nearly ¾ of endangered right whales have scars from entanglement in fishing gear; it remains one of the biggest threats to the survival of the species.” Said Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s  Global Whale Program  Manager . “IFAW wants to ensure hardworking fishermen are able to comply with these new regulations.  We want to help minimize the hassle for fishermen while maximizing protection for this critically endangered species.”
Already one of the most endangered animals in the world, lobster gear entanglement is currently the second leading cause of North Atlantic Right Whale deaths as gear, lines and other fishing equipment clutter the ocean and latch onto whales swimming in its path, wrapping around their mouths, flippers and tails while causing severe damage. To reduce the debilitating effects of entanglement  on this species, regulations mandating use of ‘whale-friendlier’ sinking groundline in lobster fishery were finalized by NMFS in October 2007 and scheduled to take effect October 7, 2008; an announcement heralded worldwide by conservation groups as an important first step in creating solid regulations to protect whales and other ocean species from human-related activities, as well as expanding collaboration between commercial, legislative and NGO agencies.
Building upon the past success of IFAW’s Lobster Gear Replacement Project, industry collaboration continues in this Lobster Gear Summit.   This meeting affords an opportunity to reach common ground among participants by itemizing the equipment inventory needed, drafting a workable manufacturing timeline, and making the transition to reach compliance by the October 7, 2008 implementation date as smooth as possible. 
The International Fund for Animal Welfare works to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats, and assisting animals in distress. IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people.
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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