Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NOAA's NMFS holding public scoping meetings about whales and commercial fishing gear

Here is an announcement from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) about public scoping meetings being held to solicit public comments on ways to reduce the risk of serious injury or mortality of North Atlantic right, humpback and fin whales as a result of vertical lines from commercial trap/pot and gillnet fisheries along the east coast of Florida. There is a meeting coming up in Cape Canaveral, FL on August 22nd from 5-8pm at the Cape Canaveral Public Library, 201 Polk Avenue.

NMFS implemented the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP) to reduce serious injuries and deaths of large whales (North Atlantic right, humpback, and fin) due to incidental entanglement in fishing gear. The ALWTRP is an evolving plan that changes as NMFS learns more about why whales become entangled and how fishing practices might be modified to reduce the risk of entanglement. It has several components including restrictions on where and how gear can be set; research into whale populations and whale behavior, as well as fishing gear interactions and modifications; outreach to inform and collaborate with fishermen and other stakeholders; and a large whale disentanglement program. Since its implementation in 1997, the ALWTRP has been modified on several occasions to further reduce the serious injury and mortality of large whales in commercial gillnet and trap/pot fishing gear. Despite these efforts, there has been continued serious injury and mortality of large whales from entanglement in commercial trap/pot and gilinet fishing gear. Therefore, NMFS determined that additional modifications to the ALWTRP are warranted. Specifically, NMFS is focusing on reducing the risk of serious injury and mortality of large whales that encounter buoy lines associated with commercial trap/pot and gillnet fishing gear. NMFS is interested in eliciting guidance on addressing buoy line entanglements by identifying: (1) where to manage (coast wide or based on whale density or fishing density); (2) when to manage (should the vertical line strategy be year round, seasonal or a combination); and (3) how to manage (what management strategies should be considered traps-per-trawl limits, seasonal or year-round closures, etc. — to drive vertical line reductions). A scoping document will be available on July 1, 2011. To obtain a copy of the scoping document visit the ALWTRP web page (www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/) or please contact, Barb Zoodsma at 904-321-2806 or Barb.Zoodsmanoaa.gov.

How do I Comment?
1. Provide verbal comments at one of the scoping meetings in your area.
2. Provide written comments via -
a. email: ALWTRPScoping.Comrnents@noaa.gov
b. fax: (978) 281-9394 or
c. mail to:
Mary Colligan, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930
Attn: ALWTRP Scoping