The marine mammals and marine reptiles that use Massachusetts waters are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act as well as the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Our work concerning these animals involves studying their migration patterns and reducing human interactions and impacts.
Cape Cod Bay Right Whale Surveillance Program
Since 1998, MarineFisheries, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, and NOAA Fisheries have partnered to carry on the Cape Cod Bay Right Whale Surveillance Program. This is done through aerial surveillance of right whales and zooplankton in the Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat.
Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
In June 2014, NOAA Fisheries enacted amendments to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan that significantly affected trap and pot fishermen in Massachusetts. These changes included a prohibition on fishing single traps in non-exempt waters of the Northeast and a closed season from February 1 to April 30 in the Massachusetts Bay Restricted Area.
Large Whale Disentanglement Network
MarineFisheries and the Center for Coastal Studies cooperatively administer large whale disentanglement efforts around Massachusetts through a grant from NOAA Fisheries. Of the 31 whale entanglement cases documented in 2015 along the United States and Canadian coasts, 24 of those were observed off the coast of Massachusetts: seven right whales, two humpback whales, three fin whales, and two minke whales.
Leatherback Sea Turtle Disentanglement
MarineFisheries has partnered with Center for Coastal Studies since 2005 to disentangle leatherback sea turtles. Leatherbacks are seasonal visitors to Massachusetts waters, where they feed on gelatinous zooplankton and are known to become entangled in vertical lines associated with fixed fishing gear. On average, there are 15 observed cases of entangled leatherback sea turtles each year. We saw record high numbers in 2012, with 37 entanglements, and again in 2013 with 51 entanglements. More recently, the number of reported entanglements has dropped to single digits with only eight confirmed cases in 2015.
Learn about the work we've done with protected species in past years. Also see archived reports and links to helpful sites to learn more.