GLOUCESTER, Mass. — Rules for fishing gear intended to protect whales, set to go into effect June 1, include adding special marks to buoy lines on gear set outside a Maine exemption line.
The rules are part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction program. They were announced in the summer of 2014 to give fishermen plenty of time to make adjustments.
Most of Maine state waters are inside the exemption line included in the rule. But any lobster gear set outside that line must have vertical lines marked at the top, middle and bottom with twelve-inch red marks.
“We do not dictate how they do it,” said John Higgins, equipment specialist for NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office. “Fishermen just want to be careful that whatever they do is going to stay on, to show that they’re in compliance.”
The office recently published a supplement to the Take Reduction Plan, available on the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) website, with maps of exempted areas and detailed information about weak links and gear marking requirements. Options for marking buoy lines include colored twine, paint and plastic electrical tape. “Electrical tape stays on way better than you would ever think,” Higgins said.
The Take Reduction Team (TRT) charged with creating and adapting the plan includes representatives from the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) and the DMR. The team met in January in Providence, R.I., to consider amendments to the plan. Most of those changes do not affect Maine fishermen, officials said.
Additional gear marking was implemented at the team’s January meeting as a compromise. “The conservation groups attending the meeting made a strong push to adopt seasonal fishing closures on Jeffrey’s Ledge and Jordan Basin as part of the whale plan,” MLA staff wrote in their February newsletter. “A compromise was reached which will require anyone lobstering in those proposed closure areas to specially mark their end lines.”