Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan
We implemented the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan to reduce interactions between harbor porpoise and commercial gillnet gear capable of catching multispecies in both the New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
We implemented the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan to reduce interactions between harbor porpoise and commercial gillnet gear capable of catching multispecies in both the New England and the Mid-Atlantic. The Plan has several components including restrictions on where, when, and how gear can be set. In some areas the Plan requires the use of acoustic deterrent devices called "pingers."
The New England portion of the Plan pertains to all fishing with sink gillnets and other gillnets capable of catching multispecies in New England waters from Maine through Rhode Island. Vessels using pelagic gillnets/baitnets are exempt from this Plan. It includes time and area closures, some of which are complete closures. Others are closures to multispecies gillnet fishing unless pingers are used in the prescribed manner.
The Mid-Atlantic portion of the Plan pertains to waters west of 72° 30’ W. longitude to the Mid-Atlantic shoreline from the Connecticut/New York border to the North Carolina/South Carolina border. It includes time and area closures to gillnet fishing unless the gear meets certain specifications. Gillnet fishing in Mid-Atlantic waters during regulated periods is regulated differently for small mesh and large mesh gear. The plan also includes some time and area closures in which gillnet fishing is prohibited regardless of the gear specifications.
Under the Plan, gillnet gear used in specific areas during specific times are required to be equipped with pingers used in accordance with the specifications below. The operator of a vessel may not fish with, set, or haul back sink gillnets or gillnet gear, or allow such gear to be in closed areas where pingers are required unless the operator has satisfactorily completed the pinger training program and possesses on board the vessel a valid pinger training authorization issued by us. After completing training, the pinger training authorization does not expire.
For more information about pinger certification training, please contact the Northeast Gear Liaison, John Higgins (firstname.lastname@example.org), at 207-359-4404.
A pinger is an acoustic deterrent device which, when immersed in water, broadcasts a 10 kHz (± 2 kHz) sound at 132 dB (± 4 dB) re 1 micropascal at 1 m, lasting 300 milliseconds (± 15 milliseconds), and repeating every 4 seconds (± 0.2 seconds).
A pinger must be attached at the end of each string of each gillnet and at the bridle of every net within a string of nets (see figure below). For example, in a gillnet string consisting of 3 net panels, 4 pingers would be required.
Pingers should be maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications and batteries should be replaced as needed.
On December 2, 1998, we published a rule to implement the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan in the Gulf of Maine and Mid-Atlantic and since then we have amended the Plan numerous times.
The initial Plan achieved the immediate goal of reducing takes of harbor porpoises to levels below the Potential Biological Removal (PBR). PBR is defined as the number of human-caused deaths the stock can withstand annually and still reach and maintain an optimum population level. The Plan did not achieve the long-term goal of achieving a zero serious injury and mortality rate, known as the zero mortality rate goal (ZMRG), required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Specifically, harbor porpoise bycatch levels, rather than approaching ZMRG, showed an increasing trend after 2001 and again exceeded PBR beginning in 2004. PBR and ZMRG are listed in the stock assessment report for harbor porpoise.
We determined that the increase in harbor porpoise bycatch in gillnet fisheries was due to two factors:
- Bycatch occurring outside of Plan management areas; and
- Noncompliance with existing regulations in the Plan.
We reconvened the Team in 2007 to discuss the increase in harbor porpoise bycatch and develop recommendations for modifying the Plan to reduce bycatch to acceptable levels. Based on the recommendations received from the Team, we published a final rule to amend the Plan.
The 2010 rule included an expansion of current Plan requirements, new management measures (including a consequence closure area strategy), and increased enforcement and monitoring efforts. The rule also established a scientific research provision and incorporated a number of necessary technical corrections to the regulations that had been identified since implementation of the Plan in 1998. This final rule was largely based on consensus recommendations provided by the Team.
From 2012 to 2013 we reconvened the Team on multiple occasions. During those meetings, the Team discussed the appropriateness of the consequence closure strategy and discussed potential replacement management measures. The Team agreed that the consequence area target bycatch rates no longer accurately reflect compliant bycatch rates in New England. In 2013 we amended the Plan to remove the consequence closure strategy from the Plan.
The 5-year mean bycatch continues to decrease, and is well under PBR. We continue to enforce the Plan to promote compliance with the requirements.
The Team is composed of two sub-groups: a Gulf of Maine team and a Mid-Atlantic team. Each sub-group meets separately to discuss management of the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy harbor porpoise stock, which is common to both regions. The Team is composed of fishermen, scientists, conservationists, and state and federal officials from Maine to North Carolina.
December 12, 2018
November 16, 2017
Meeting Summary (PDF, 4 pages)
November 30, 2016
Meeting Summary (PDF, 6 pages)
November 18, 2015
Meeting Summary (PDF, 5 pages)
Monitoring Strategy (April 2010) (PDF, 18 pages )
New England Guide to the Plan (March 2015) (PDF, 13 pages)
Mid-Atlantic Guide to the Plan (April 2015) (PDF, 13 pages)
Contact: Colleen Coogan, Greater Atlantic Region, Marine Mammal/Sea Turtle Branch Chief, 978-281-9181