For Immediate Release - July 25, 2014

Informational Meeting Thursday July 31st Concerning Effects of Federal Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Rules on State’s Lobster and Fish Pot Fisheries

Chatham Community Center 702 Main St., Chatham 6-9 pm

On June 27, 2014, National Marine Fisheries Service announced new rules governing trap/pot fisheries to reduce the risk of large whale entanglements with vertical buoy lines.  These new rules will affect all commercial lobster trap, and other pot fisheries.  (All non commercial fishing will be exempted).  A meeting has been scheduled for the Chatham Community Center at 6 pm on July 31, 2014 for the Division of Marine Fisheries to discuss with commercial fishermen the new rules and the Commonwealth’s options. 

This rule was enacted after public hearings last summer and ongoing deliberations by the federal Large Whale  Take Reduction Team.  The three most notable rules affecting Massachusetts will be: enhanced buoy line marking, restrictions on setting single traps, and an area/season closure in waters around Cape Cod.

Buoy Line Marking (effective June 1, 2015).  Although entanglements have continued to occur since the onset of the plan, much of the gear cannot be identified because it is too often rope or net fragments carried for months or years by the whales. To allow gear experts to better identify the origin of entangling rope on a whale, fishermen will be required to mark each buoy line with a 12 inch long colored marker on the top, midpoint, and bottom of the buoy line. Previous rules required inshore lobstermen use a single 4 inch red mark on the line. 

Single Trap Restriction (effective June 1, 2015).  To reduce the number of buoy lines in the water column in New England waters, the rules will restrict the use of single trap and single buoy line configurations, thereby requiring lobster traps and other pots be fished in trawls – multiple traps strung together. The number of traps required per trawl is based on area fished and distance from shore. This part of the plan attempts to restrict vertical lines in times and places that endangered whales (especially right whales) and fishing gears co-occur due to the lack of definitive information on the origin of past entangling gears.

Season/Area Closure (effective January 1, 2015).  All trap and pot gear will be prohibited in an area surrounding Cape Cod during a 4-month seasonal closure from January through April (see map). Winter months, especially February through April, are times that northern right whale are common around Cape Cod.

MarineFisheries, along with the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, and many individual fishermen, expressed concerns about the impacts of the various options during the development of the rule. Now that the final rule has been announced, the impacts are clear and the Division will be requesting NOAA Fisheries and the Take Reduction Team consider minor adjustments to the rule to accommodate fishermen’s safety without significantly increasing the risk to endangered whales. The amendments will include:

  • Create exemptions to the prohibition on single traps in two areas: 1) all inshore (state) waters south of Cape Cod and in Buzzards Bay; and 2) within a mile of shore in all other northern state waters.
  • Eliminate January from the 4-month Cape Cod Area closure to allow lobstermen to safely bring gear home during January in advance of the high whale season (February-April), and extend the area closure to the entire Outer Cape Cod Lobster Management Area .

Other exemptions or changes to the rules could be crafted with input from industry at this and future meetings.

For more information, contact Dan McKiernan at 617 626-1536 or mailto:dan.mckiernan@state.ma.us

 

Proposed Pots and Traps Restricted Area

The Massachusetts Restricted Area as approved by NMFS is scheduled to be closed to pot/trap gear from January through April.

Further information on the federal rules can be viewed at the NMFS Protected Species web site: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/Protected/whaletrp/

The Division of Marine Fisheries comment letter to NMFS concerning the final rule can be viewed at : http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/dmf/programsandprojects/bullard-feis-vertical-line-reduction-rule-comment-16jun14.pdf