The Maine Department of Marine Resources has been awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve the data used to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.
The $714,245 grant will support a three-year project beginning this summer to improve and add data on fishing gear that can inform future whale protection regulations.
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.
“This research will ensure that future regulations are based on current, relevant data,” said DMR’s Erin Summers. “Understanding how and where fishing gear is used throughout the Gulf of Maine will be crucial to the development of regulations that address the relative risk of entanglement in specific areas.”
The project will solicit volunteer documentation by harvesters from Maine to Connecticut on how vertical lines are rigged and fished.
“Without a better understanding of vertical lines, regulators are more likely to implement sweeping regulations which might not be any more effective at protecting whales,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “Good information from industry will increase the likelihood of targeted, effective regulations.”
The project will also study 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. The department will solicit participation from harvesters who are willing to test the hauling loads and breaking strengths of their fishing gear.