FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Teri Frady
News Releases 2003
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Federal plans for reducing threats to endangered large whales off the east coast will be up for discussion at six public meetings along the eastern seaboard beginning July 7. The plans center on how best to further reduce serious injuries and deaths to these animals caused by entanglement in commercial fishing gear.
The meetings are being organized by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), the federal agency responsible for the recovery and protection of the nation’s large whales.
Three endangered large whales species are susceptible to this kind of injury: fin, right and humpback. At present, management relies on various kinds of closures, gear modifications, research to develop whale-friendly gear, and expansion of whale sighting, reporting, and disentanglement efforts. Despite these efforts, entanglements have continued to occur.
“Based on the results of cooperative research over the past few years with industry and others, we know much more about how gear, particularly the rope between pot/trap gear, operates while fishing and how this can sometimes pose a threat to whales,” said Mary Colligan, Northeast regional chief of the NOAA Fisheries group charged with developing the plan. “It’s now possible and necessary to gather our efforts into a more broad-based approach, providing better protection for whales while also protecting fishing livelihoods.”
These meetings are the first step in revising rules that govern fishing operations that use gear known to entangle large whales. The current rules are primarily focused on the lobster trap/pot and sink gillnet fisheries. Any rule changes will likely be approved by the end of 2004. However, the rules would not likely become effective until at least early 2005.
Among the items to be considered are including additional gear types, revising or discarding short-duration time and area closures, changing requirements for using certain kinds of line, excluding of some areas owing to minimal risks posed, and modifying effective dates for changes in fishing practices.
Many of the possible changes to the plan have been developed by a team of advisors comprising state and federal officials, commercial fishermen that use the affected gear types, non-governmental environmental organizations, and whale scientists. There are now some 60 members of the “Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team,” which is required under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat
The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.
On the Web:
NOAA Fisheries: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov
More information on the meetings and background documentation will be posted here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp/