In-Person Scoping Meeting for Modifications to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan in Portland, Maine
The Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office is holding an in-person scoping meeting to solicit public comments on ways to reduce the risk of entanglement in East Coast gillnet and trap/pot fisheries for right, humpback, and finback whales.
This scoping meeting in being held in anticipation of preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for modifications to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.
The scoping meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Community Education Center, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland, Maine 04101.
Listen to the recording of meeting by choosing the segments below:
- Part 1: Introduction and Comments
- Part 2: Comments from Congressional Attendees
- Part 3: Public Comments
- Part 4: Public Comments
- Part 5: Public Comments
Attendees may submit oral comments at this meeting. This meeting will be recorded.
Written comments may be submitted online through October 11, 2022.
We are looking for information specific to additional risk reduction in all U.S. East Coast commercial gillnet and trap/pot fisheries, including, but not limited to, ways to reduce buoy lines through line caps, trawling up, trawls and sets limited to one buoy line, net and trap reductions, or other methods of achieving line reduction, modifications to existing restricted areas, new or expanded areas or seasons to consider restricting fishing with persistent buoy lines, opportunities for dynamic management, and any modifications to the weak line requirements published on September 17, 2021 (86 FR 51970). Additional feedback on ideas that were discussed in previous scoping and comments on earlier modifications is also invited. Examples include, but are not limited to, increasing the number of weak inserts required to increase the chance large whales will interact with a weak section of rope and can break free without injury, modifying start or end dates of seasonal restricted areas, new or expanded seasonal restricted areas, restricting fishing rope diameter to no greater than 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) to distinguish it from offshore Canadian gear, submission of information on latent effort, and the use of gear identification tape.
We are also seeking feedback on the inclusion of some measures that might modify the regulations implemented under the September 2021 Final Rule apply to Northeast lobster and Jonah crab in the Phase 2 rulemaking, such as conservation equivalencies for weak rope in the offshore Lobster Management Area 3 fleet. As of July 2022, no operationally feasible large diameter weak rope has been identified. Input on an extension of the Massachusetts Seasonal Restricted Area into Federal waters (which was implemented through an Emergency Rule in 2022 (87 FR 11590, March 2, 2022) is also specifically requested.
Input is also welcome on information about operational challenges, time, and costs regarding restricted areas, gear marking requirements, installation of weak inserts or rope that breaks at forces of less than 1,700 lb (771 kg), and the use of one endline in offshore areas, the use of grappling, acoustic releases of buoys, timed release of buoys is also requested. Given U.S. rulemaking requirements, even dynamic management procedures are likely to take weeks to implement, however information on whether dynamic management should be considered is also requested. Dynamic management could include dynamically opening an area if active monitoring does not demonstrate that whales are present or the implementation of a dynamic closure if whales are documented. Comments could include input on whether acoustic detection can trigger or maintain a closure, the number of days fishermen would require to remove all of their gear, how many whales would trigger a closure and for how long, whether in some areas closures shift rather than remove risk. In addition to input on the direct costs of replacing new gear, input is requested on indirect cost of gear modification measure alternatives, such as potential gear losses and catch reduction related to weak rope, use of one endline, and seasonal restricted areas. Information on the value and the ecological and economic benefits of whale conservation is also requested.