August 2, 2001
Department of Marine Resources
Begins Implementation of State Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
ME – The Maine Department of Marine Resources, in collaboration with the
Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Down East Lobstermen’s Association
and the Maine Gillnetter’s Association, announces the implementation of
the State of Maine Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.
The Department and fishing industry’s goal is to fully protect all
Large Whales, while at the same time fully protecting the economic and
operational realities of Maine’s commercial fisheries.
this spring set a record with thirty right whale calves observed born (four
have since died), in 2000 there were seven confirmed sightings of right
whales entangled in fishing gear. Unfortunately
one of these entangled whales was observed dead, although the carcass was
never recovered and the exact cause of death unknown.
So far this year there have been three right whales observed
entangled in gear. One whale
has since been observed gear free, one not yet disentangled despite many
attempts, and one recently successfully disentangled.
a result of ongoing litigations with the Conservation Law Foundation and the
Humane Society, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently
published Biological Opinions for the sink-gillnet, lobster, dogfish and
monkfish fisheries. These
opinions conclude that the current Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
“may not relieve the likelihood of jeopardy to right whales given the
measures are new, they are not yet applicable to all areas where right whale
distribution overlaps with gear, and even the loss of one right whale may
reduce appreciably the survival and recovery of the species.”
the same time, in order to comply with the requirements of Section 7 of the
Endangered Species Act, NMFS also proposed rulemaking for a “Reasonable
and Prudent Alternative” that will establish seasonal area management,
dynamic area management, and additional gear modifications.
The draft rule is due September 30, 2001 for implementation on
January 1, 2002. Within this
rule, NMFS will determine which fishing gear type or modification will be
allowed to be fished near aggregations of whales as a part of the seasonal
and dynamic management area measures. If
a restricted area is established, NMFS may require use of heavily modified
gear or the removal of all gear from the area.
of Marine Resources staff and the Maine fishing industry spent the last
several years developing an alternative Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.
It was first presented to NMFS at the May 2000 Take Reduction Team
meeting and slightly modified over this past year.
The Maine Plan will monitor movements of all whales observed in areas
where there is State of Maine fishing gear, establishes a joint
industry/Marine Patrol standby assistance program to support disentanglement
efforts, and will conduct plankton tows to determine whether whales are
feeding or transiting an area. These efforts offer multiple simple and practical ways
to avoid the likelihood of jeopardy, to avoid potential gear interactions,
and to minimize adverse effects if interactions with gear occur, while at
the same time allowing the fisheries to operate over the areas in which they
currently exist. Importantly,
this plan was developed collaboratively and directly involves the
cooperative effort and conservation ethics of Maine fishermen.
They offer over 3,000 vessels and 10,000 sets of eyes to help collect
the data necessary to produce good management.
for this program has been secured through two federal grants and the
Department is now seeking to fill a new position of Large Whale Take
Reduction Coordinator. This key
position will serve as a liaison between the fishermen, coastal communities,
the State’s seven Lobster Zone Management Councils and the Department.
The Coordinator will be charged with developing and implementing a
State sighting and surveillance program, an education and outreach program
for fishermen and coastal communities, and an entanglement response plan.
Department of Marine Resources is now in the process of hiring for the
Coordinator position. Individuals
interested in finding out more about the position are encouraged to go to
the DMR website,
or contact Project Leader, Terry Stockwell at (207) 633-9556.