Maritime Shorts: Ropeless fishing, closure area permits, SOS hoax

Ropeless fishing 

BAR HARBOR — The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium and the Ropeless Consortium plan to have meetings later this month to discuss the future of the species and the potential for ropeless fishing.   

Both meetings will be held virtually. The Ropeless Consortium will be held on Oct. 19. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium will be held on Oct. 26 and 27.   

The first meeting will involve makers of ropeless technology, conservation groups, scientists and other officials discussing topics such as the potential and intricacies of ropeless fishing.   

The topic has taken on a sense of immediacy as the federal government recently enacted a seasonal closure of a large swath of offshore fishing ground to traditional lobstering. The only way lobstermen could fish in that area is with gear that doesn’t have persistent vertical lines running from traps to surface buoys. Such technology is not yet available at a commercial scale.   

The whale consortium will talk about updates on mortality and injuries to the endangered species of whale and different enacted and potential measures being taken to help protect them.   


Closure area permits 

STONINGTON — No commercial fishermen have yet applied for the permit that would be needed to fish in an area that will be closed to traditional lobstering later this month in order to protect right whales.   

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has enacted a seasonal closure of a 967-square-mile area of offshore fishing ground that runs from west of Mount Desert Island to Casco Bay.   

To be able to fish in the area, lobstermen would need to use so-called “ropeless technology,” a still developing type of fishing gear that doesn’t leave vertical lines in the water.   

According to a NOAA spokeswoman, there have been no applications for the area. Ropeless testing has started to crop up more in Maine, even locally, though a majority has been happening in Massachusetts.   


SOS hoax 

PORTLAND — A Rockland man was sentenced in federal court last week for making a hoax distress call.   

Nathan Libby, 32, was given three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $17,500 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard for the agency’s efforts after he made a false distress call for a vessel and crew reportedly taking on water near Spruce Head.   

The call was made in December 2020 and a search involved a local Coast Guard vessel, the Maine Marine Patrol and a Coast Guard helicopter from Cape Cod.   

The Coast Guard pursues all distress calls. Even when dealing with potential hoax call, they will search until the nature and legitimacy of a call are resolved.  

Hoax calls put crews at unnecessary risk, waste resources and may limit rescuers’ ability to respond to actual emergencies, a Coast Guard official said.   

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