Marine Mammal Take Reduction Plans and Teams
Learn more about the importance of take reduction plans and teams in NOAA Fisheries' efforts to steward national marine resources.
Take reduction plans help recover and prevent the depletion of strategic marine mammal stocks that interact with Category I and II fisheries. (Section 118 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) specifies that we develop and implement take reduction plans.)
A strategic stock is one which is:
- Listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- Declining, and likely to be listed as threatened under the ESA.
- Listed as depleted under the MMPA.
- Experiencing direct human-caused mortality that exceeds the stock's "Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level."
The immediate goal of take reduction plans is to reduce, within six months of its implementation, the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals from commercial fishing to less than the PBR level.
The long-term goal is to reduce, within five years of its implementation, the incidental mortality and serious injury mortality of marine mammals from commercial fishing operations to insignificant levels, approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate, taking into account the economics of the fishery, the availability of existing technology, and existing state or regional fishery management plans.
We convene take reduction teams to develop the plans. Teams consist of a balance of representatives from the
- Fishing industry
- Fishery management councils
- State and federal resource management agencies
- Scientific community
- Conservation organizations
Once we establish and convene a Team (and publish notice in the Federal Register), the Team has 6 months to reach consensus on a Plan and then submit it to NOAA Fisheries. NOAA Fisheries then has 60 days to publish a draft Plan, including any proposed changes to the plan. The public then has an opportunity to review and provide comments on both the Plan and the proposed regulations for implementing the Plan.
If a Team cannot reach consensus on a draft plan, the Team can document the range of possibilities considered and both majority and minority views. If a Team does not submit a draft Plan, NOAA Fisheries has 8 months from the date the Team was formed to develop a proposed Plan and implementing regulations. NOAA Fisheries may use the Team's deliberations as the basis for a Plan.
After the close of the comment period on a proposed Plan and implementing regulations, NOAA Fisheries has 60 days to publish a final Plan and final regulations to implement that Plan.
After each Plan is finalized, the Team and NOAA Fisheries meet periodically to monitor implementation of the plan.
Take Reduction Plan Content
Each take reduction plan must include the following:
- Review of the final stock assessment report for each marine mammal addressed by the Plan and any substantial new information.
- Estimate of the total number and, if possible, age and gender, of animals from the stock that is incidentally killed or seriously injured each year during the course of commercial fishing operations, by fishery.
- Recommended regulatory or voluntary measures for the reduction of incidental mortality and serious injury.
- Recommended dates for achieving the specific objectives of the plan.
Take Reduction Teams
- Atlantic Large Whale
- Atlantic Trawl Gear
- Bottlenose Dolphin
- False Killer Whale
- Harbor Porpoise
- Pacific Offshore Cetacean
- Pelagic Longline
- Atlantic Offshore Cetacean Take Reduction
- Mid-Atlantic Take Reduction
The Atlantic Offshore Cetacean Take Reduction Team (disbanded in 2001) was convened in May 1996 to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of the following species by the Atlantic pelagic driftnet, pelagic longline, and pair trawl fisheries:
- Right whales
- Humpback whales
- Sperm whales
- Beaked whales
- Pilot whales
- Common dolphins
- Bottlenose dolphins
- Spotted dolphins
The Team reached consensus on several strategies to reduce mortalities and serious injuries in each fishery and prepared and proposed the Atlantic Offshore Cetaceans Take Reduction Plan (PDF, 78 pages) in November 1996. Each of the three fisheries in the plan had a major change since the team originally convened. Two of the three fisheries covered by the draft Plan no longer existed:
- The pelagic driftnet fishery for swordfish was closed in 1999 (64 FR 4055).
- The longline fishery was substantially modified to reduce bycatch of other species (e.g., billfish and sea turtles) as a result of a Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (64 FR 29089), which prohibited the use of driftnet gear for targeting tuna in pelagic waters.
- The pair trawl fishery, which was already inactive when the Team was convened, was included in the Plan so that conservation measures would be in place if the fishery were reauthorized.
Since the nature of the fisheries that were included in the Plan had changed tremendously since 1996 when the Team was convened, NOAA Fisheries disbanded the Team in August 2001.
The Mid-Atlantic Take Reduction Team became the Harbor Porpoise Team (implemented in 1998). NOAA Fisheries originally convened the Mid-Atlantic Team to develop a take reduction plan for harbor porpoises and coastal bottlenose dolphins. However, a plan to reduce fisheries interactions with harbor porpoise was given the highest priority because of the stock's vulnerability. Also, NOAA Fisheries needed to collect and analyze additional data for bottlenose dolphins. (Since 1995, NOAA Fisheries developed better abundance estimates, identified and distinguished different stocks, and monitored interactions with commercial fisheries, including at-sea observer programs and stranding response efforts for Atlantic bottlenose dolphin stocks.) Thus, the Mid-Atlantic Team became the Mid-Atlantic Harbor Porpoise Team.
MMPA section 118(f)(3) states that if there is insufficient funding available to develop and implement take reduction plans, the highest priority will be given to species or stocks whose level of incidental mortality and serious injury exceeds the potential biological removal (PBR) level, those that have a small population size, and those which are declining most rapidly. NOAA Fisheries uses the most recent stock assessment reports (SARs) and List of Fisheries (LOF) as the basis to determine its priorities for establishing TRTs and developing take reduction plans. NOAA Fisheries uses the best available information at the time the priorities are developed. These priorities may change annually based upon changes to the final stock assessments and LOF, as well as other quantitative and qualitative information.
- NOAA Fisheries Priorities for Establishing TRTs (PDF, 2 pages)
- Marine Mammal Authorization Program.
- Marine Mammal Protection Act List of Fisheries.
- Policy for Distinguishing Serious From Non-Serious Injuries of Marine Mammals.
- Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Quick Guides.
- GAO Report on Take Reduction Planning: Improvements Are Needed in the Federal Process Used to Protect Marine Mammals from Commercial Fishing (2008).
- Take Reduction Team Negotiation Process Evaluation (1999) (PDF, 68 pages).
- Development of a Process for the Long-term Monitoring of MMPA Category I and II Commercial Fisheries (1999).
- Report of the 2007 Serious Injury Technical Workshop (2008).
- Report of the 1997 Serious Injury Workshop (1997).
- More on bycatch.
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