A grant in the amount of $714,245 has been awarded to the Maine Department of Marie Resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) to improve the data used to protect endangered North Atlantic Right Whales according to a press release issued this morning by Jeff Nichols, Department of Marine Resources.
The three year project which begins this summer, will support work that improves and adds data on fishing gear that can inform future whale protection guidelines. With 17 North Atlantic Right Whale deaths last year, there is growing interest among stakeholders, including regulators and the Maine lobster industry to improve the data on which future regulations are based.
“Maine has been involved in the development and evaluation of whale protection regulations over the past two decades and this research will ensure that future regulations are based on current relevant data,” said Erin Summers, project leader and Director of the Department of Maine Resources, Division of Biological Monitoring. “This study is another example of Maine taking a leadership role in the protection of whales.”
The project will also include a study on the breaking strength of vertical lines currently in use, as well as the amount of load put on the vertical lines during different hauling conditions. This analysis will document the strength of the rope currently in use, determine what rope strength will ensure that harvesters can fish safely and efficiently, and help determine whether reducing the strength of vertical lines might help decrease severe entanglements of right whales. The Department will solicit participation from harvesters who are wiling to test the hauling boats and breaking strengths of their fishing gear.
The Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, established 20 years ago to assess and advise federal regulators on whale protection measures, has recommended in recent years improved reporting by harvesters on gear location and configuration as well as research into rope strength. “THese areas of focus will help managers develop informed, effective programs,” said Summners in the same press release issued this morning.