Program contacts: Erin Burke , Dan McKiernan

 

Advisories | Reports | Links

Right Whale Tail

The Division of Marine Fisheries’ Protected Species Program is responsible for the conservation and management of protected marine species in Massachusetts waters.  The marine mammals and marine reptiles that use Massachusetts waters are covered under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.   Our program seeks to understand the spatial-temporal distribution and habitat-use patterns of these species, with the goal of minimizing threats from human impacts, such as entanglement in fishing gear and vessel collision.

MarineFisheries and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) have collaborated since 1998 to monitor right whales in Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat using aerial surveillance and boat-based zooplankton studies.  Right whales return each year in late winter/early spring to feed on the abundant zooplankton.  Since 2007, the number of right whales observed in Cape Cod Bay each season has risen dramatically.  In 2010, 199 individual right whales were documented in Cape Cod Bay and adjacent areas - approximately 50% of the known population!

MarineFisheries also partners with PCCS on large whale disentanglement efforts in our area.  In addition, we collaborate with Cornell University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to operate a real-time acoustic listening system for right whales in Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat.  These buoys provide important data about the presence/absence and acoustic behavior of right whales, regardless of daylight and weather conditions.  You can follow the detections in Cape Cod Bay at: www.listenforwhales.org.

Turtle

We were also recently awarded a three-year NMFS grant to conduct leatherback sea turtle research and disentanglement program in Massachusetts waters.  Leatherback sea turtles are seasonal visitors to Massachusetts waters, where they feed on abundant jellyfish in the summer months.  However, they are known to become entangled in buoylines attached to trap/pot gear.  To address this threat, MarineFisheries and our partners, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and the University of Massachusetts, will increase our understanding of leatherback turtle behavior and habitat-use in Massachusetts and surrounding areas, and mitigate fishery-related entanglements.

MarineFisheries partners with the Massachusetts Environmental Police and local fishermen to remove any abandoned or non-compliant fishing gear from Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat.  Fishing gear can entangle marine species, causing injury or even death.  MarineFisheries mitigates this risk through strict gear regulations designed to minimize the potential for entanglement.

Right Whale

Personnel from MarineFisheries’ Protected Species Program are members of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team, and Atlantic Trawl Gear Take Reduction Team.  Massachusetts is recognized as a leader in the management of fisheries to minimize harm to endangered species.

Finally, the Commonwealth continues to establish regulations for fixed-gear fisheries in state waters to reduce the risk of entanglement of protected species.  In 2007, MarineFisheries became the first and only state to requireyear-round use of sinking groundlines in fixed gear fisheries in all state waters, which reduces the risk of entanglement.   We have a variety of other gear modifications and restrictions related to protected species.  More details on Massachusetts’ protected species regulations can be found within the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (322 CMR 12:00 ).

Past Projects

MarineFisheries has been at the fore-front of investigations into the threat of fixed fishing gear to whales, as well as improvements into the durability and use of gear that reduces the threat of entanglement.  The use of sinking groundline reduces the profile of line in the water column, thus reducing the risk of entanglement for large whales. However, sinking groundline has drawbacks for fishermen, who report that it causes more hang-downs, chafes from contact with the ocean floor, and wears out faster than floating line.  MarineFisheries and the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association partnered from 2003 - 2009 to study ways to improve the durability of sinking line, thus increasing the lifespan of sinking groundline and reducing the potential for lost gear. The scope of those groundline investigations grew considerably over the life of the project.  With an eye on lobstermen’s bottom line, these projects yielded practical results for the industry.

  • Use of Gear-Hauling Simulator to Test Durability of Groundline
  • Offshore Field-testing of Sinking Groundlines
  • Visual and Microscopic Analysis of Rope Damage
  • Adjusting the Hauling System to Reduce Rope Damage
  • A Study of the Underwater Profile of Lobster Trawl Groundlines using SCUBA
  • Scale Modeling of Fixed Gear Buoyline Profiles
  • Using Loggers to Profile the Dynamics of Fixed Gear
  • Buy-back Program for Floating Groundline
  • Use of Sonar to Evaluate Compliance with Sinking Groundline
  • Sinking Groundline Discussion Forum
  • Field-testing of Polyurethane Sheaves to Reduce Wear on Sinking Groundlines

The following links are especially relevant to Marine Fisheries Right Whale Conservation & Monitoring efforts:

Advisories

4/15/2011 - High Risk Area for Right Whales Around Provincetown pdf format of    High Risk Area for Right Whales Around Provincetown

Reports

** These files may take a long time to download on slower connections

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2010 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2010  file size 2MB **
Karen Stamieszkin, Laura Ganley, Charles A. Mayo, Ruth H. Leeney, and Marilyn K. Marx

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2009 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2009  file size 5MB **
Ruth H. Leeney, Karen Stamieszkin, Charles A. Mayo, and Marilyn K. Marx

Final Report on a Project Designed to Reduce Damage to Sinking Groundlines by Adjusting Lobster Gear Hauling Equipment pdf format of    Reduce Damage to Groundlines by Lobster Gear Hauling  file size 1MB
Richard Allen, Erin Burke, Dan McKiernan and Bonnie Spinazzola.

2007 Cape Cod Bay Ghost Gear Removal Project pdf format of    2007 Cape Cod Bay Ghost Gear Removal Project
Erin Burke.

Visual and scanning electron microscopy investigation and tensile testing to estimate residual tensile strength of a selection of lobster lines pdf format of    Visual & Scanning Electron Microscopy Investigation  file size 1MB
Tesion Technology International Ltd. for MA Division of Marine Fisheries

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2008 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2008  file size 9MB **
Ruth H. Leeney, Karen Stamieszkin, Nathalie Jaquet, Charles A. Mayo, David Osterberg and Marilyn K. Marx

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2007 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2007  file size 12MB **
Nathalie Jaquet, Charles A. Mayo, David Osterberg, Cynthia L. Browning and Marilyn K. Marx.

Massachusetts Divison of Marine Fisheries Right Whale Conservation Program: 2006 Projects and Accomplishments pdf format of    DMF Right Whale Conservation Program 2006  file size 1MB **
Erin Burke and Dan McKiernan.

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2006 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2006  file size 8MB **
Nathalie Jaquet, Charles A. Mayo, David Osterberg, Owen C. Nichols, and Cynthia L. Browning.

Non-Buoyant Lobster Line Specification pdf format of    Non-Buoyant Lobster Line Specification
Tension Technology International Inc. for Massachusetts Divison of Marine Fisheries.

Analysis of Non-Buoyant Lobster Lines: New, Used and Machine Tested pdf format of    Analysis of Non-Buoyant Lobster Lines
Technology International Inc. for Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen's Association.

Massachusetts Divison of Marine Fisheries Right Whale Conservation Program: 2005 Projects and Accomplishments pdf format of    DMF Right Whale Conservation Program 2005  **
Erin Burke and Dan McKiernan.

Report on 2004 Activities and Action Plan to Protect Northern Right Whales: Implementation of the Commonwealth's Right Whale Conservation Plan pdf format of    Activites & Action Plan Protect Northern Right Whale  file size 6MB **
Ed Lyman and Dan McKiernan.

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2005 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2005  file size 6MB **
Nathalie Jaquet, Charles A. Mayo, Owen C. Nichols, Moriah K. Bessinger, David Osterberg, Marilyn K. Marx, and Cynthia L. Browning.

Report on 2003 Activities and Action Plan to Protect Northern Right Whales: Implementation of the Commonwealth's Right Whale Conservation Plan pdf format of    Plan to Protect Northern Right Whales 2003
Ed Lyman and Dan McKiernan.

Evaluation of the Performance, Characteristics, and Economic Feasibility of Non-Buoyant Rope for Groundlines in the Atlantic Offshore Lobster Fishery. Phase 1: Development of Line Tester and Protocols, and Preliminary Testing of Lines pdf format of    Evaluate of the Performance, Characteristics & Economic
Ed Lyman, Erin Burke, Dan McKiernan, Richard Allen, Bonnie Spinazzola, and John Kenney

Scale Modeling of Fixed-Fishing Gear to Compare and Quantify Differently Configured Buoyline and Groundline Profiles: An Investigation of Entanglement Threat. pdf format of    TR-22  file size 1MB **
Lyman, E.G. and D.J. McKiernan. 2005. TR-22.

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2004 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2004  file size 4MB **
Charles A. Mayo, Owen C. Nichols, Moriah K. Bessinger, Cynthia L. Browning, Center for Coastal Studies, and Marilyn K. Marx, and Moira W. Brown, New England Aquarium.

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2003 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2003  file size 7MB **
Moira W. Brown, Owen C. Nichols, Moriah K. Bessinger, and Charles A. Mayo, Center for Coastal Studies, and Marilyn K. Marx, New England Aquarium.

A Study of the Underwater Profiles of Lobster Trawl Ground Lines pdf format of    Underwater Profiles of Lobster Trawl Ground Lines
by Daniel McKiernan, Michael Pol and Vincent Malkoski, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Surveillance of North Atlantic Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay and Adjacent Waters - 2002 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance of North Atlantic Right Whales 2002 Report  file size 2MB **
by Moira W. Brown and Owen Nichols, Center for Coastal Studies and Marilyn K. Marx and Jacqueline N. Ciano, New England Aquarium.

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales, Eubalaena glacialis, in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts: January to Mid-May, 2001 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2001
by Moira W. Brown and Owen Nichols, Center for Coastal Studies and Marilyn K. Marx, New England Aquarium The figures referenced in this document are links to the file location of the figures.

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales, Eubalaena glacialis, in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts: January to Mid-May, 2000 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 2000  file size 4MB **
by Moira W. Brown, Center for Coastal Studies and Marilyn K. Marx, New England Aquarium

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales, Eubalaena glacialis, in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts: January to Mid-May, 1999 - Final Report pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 1999  file size 3MB ** 
by Moira W. Brown, Center for Coastal Studies and Marilyn K. Marx, New England Aquarium

Surveillance, Monitoring and Management of North Atlantic Right Whales, Eubalaena glacialis, in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts: January to Mid-May, 1998 pdf format of    Surveillance, Monitoring & Mgt of North Atlantic 1998  file size 2MB **
by Moira W. Brown and Marilyn K. Marx

Links

Bioacoustic Research Program, Cornell University

Center for Coastal Studies

NMFS-Broadcasted Right Whale Sightings Advisories

NMFS Protected Species - Right Whale