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DEPT. OF MARINE RESOURCES
DMR Proposes Low-Profile Groundline Alternative to NMFS Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has long asserted that, due to the rocky and tidal habitat of the Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM), some flotation is needed in groundlines in order for the Maine lobster fishery to fish safely and efficiently. For the past five years, DMR has collaborated with NOAA Fisheries and the Maine lobster fishing industry to develop and test alternative fishing gear modifications that will reduce the risk of entanglement to large whales while maintaining operational viability for the Maine lobster fishery. In 2006, DMR presented the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team (ALWTRT) a detailed summary report of a promising low-profile groundline alternative technology. This groundline prototype floated less than one meter from the bottom but was not yet significantly abrasion resistant. Over this past year DMR has worked with rope manufacturers to resolve this operational issue.
The publication of the Final Rules to Amend the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP) by NOAA Fisheries on October 5, 2007 resulted in Maine lobstermen considering alternative options to the way that they configure their fishing gear in order to address the operational challenges of the mandatory sinking groundline requirement. For most, this will include breaking their gear up into smaller trawls, pairs or singles to eliminate or reduce gear loss caused when sinking groundline chafes or gets hung down. DMR highlights that as gear is reconfigured this way it will significantly increase the number of endlines (the vertical line from the trap to the buoy sometimes referred to as vertical lines) in the water column within the NGOM.
Consequently, the Final Rules to Amend the ALWTRP will result in a large scale increase in the number of endlines, greatly increasing risk to large whales in the NGOM, a risk regarded by some as a larger threat of entanglement to large whales than groundlines. Therefore, it’s with a dual purpose that DMR proposes low-profile groundline for use in specific NGOM areas. Maine’s lobster fishery will be able to operationally fish with a viable alternative groundline while concurrently reducing the risk of groundline entanglements and preventing the substantial increase of endlines.
Full text of the DMR proposal
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