Maritime Shorts: Right whales, sea urchins, road maps



Right whale territory

WOODS HOLE, Mass. — Right whales are increasingly found in southern New England waters that are planned to be used for offshore wind energy development, according to a new study.

Published late last month in Endangered Species Research, scientists looked at aerial survey data collected for waters off Massachusetts and Rhode Island and found that right whales used the region more frequently than they had in the last decade, with large aggregations in winter and spring months.

The study showed that between December and May, almost a quarter of the right whale population may be present in the region. The endangered whale could be found feeding in the area during all months of the year and models show that it is an important destination for the species.

The use of the area by reproductive female whales, which the future of the species depends on, is an important consideration for the species’ conservation, according to officials.

“Since a number of large commercial offshore wind energy projects are proposed off southern New England, construction and operation of wind farms are relevant to conserving the species,” said Tim Cole, a co-author of the study. “Considerable uncertainty still exists regarding how the development of the region could have an impact on right whales just as they are becoming more reliant on the region.”

Mitigation measures by any companies holding leases in the area would be crucial and should be reevaluated continually, he said.

Vineyard Wind is working to build the first utility-grade wind farm in the U.S. off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Offshore wind energy development has been rolling out more slowly in Maine. The state is trying to build a research array to test out the technology in the Gulf of Maine.

 

Sea urchin season

AUGUSTA State officials have set the 2021-2022 sea urchin season. In Zone 1, harvesters may fish up to 15 days, the same that was allowed last season. The daily tote is also unchanged, remaining at nine. For Zone 2, 40-day seasons are implemented for divers, trappers, rakers and draggers, from which harvesters can only fish up to 30 days.

This rule keeps the same number of fishing days and opportunity days as last season. For the Whiting and Denny’s bays limited access areas, there will be a 15-day season and the daily tote limit is six.

Urchins made up 1 percent of the state’s 2020 landings by live pounds and value. Fishermen caught 1.2 million pounds for $3.8 dollars.

 

Road map plans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are taking comment on two plans that will establish a road map for federal agencies to “increase the overall effectiveness and productivity of federal aquaculture regulation, research and technology transfer,” according to the agencies.

Through the plans, officials are working to increase the nation’s seafood supply, create jobs in coastal communities and enhance commercial and recreational fisheries.

The plans, called the Strategic Plan to Enhance Regulatory Efficiency and the Strategic Plan for Federal Aquaculture Research, are both available in the federal registry.

The comment period on both plans is open through Sept. 18.

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