Subject: NMFS Proposed TRP Fact Sheet (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Sun, 6 Apr 1997 10:23:13 -0400 (EDT)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 3 Apr 1997 14:19:33 -0500
From: Robyn Angliss <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: Long:  NMFS Proposed TRP Fact Sheet

     Fact sheet to accompany NMFS press release.



        The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has documented
     historical incidental bycatch of several endangered large whales in the
     North Atlantic, including right whales, humpback whales, and fin
     whales.  Incidental bycatch of these species is of great concern due to
     low population levels that may not be able to sustain current levels of
     human-caused mortality.  Of particular concern is the impact to the
     right whale population due to its critically depressed population level
     (295 individuals).  NMFS is addressing these concerns through two
     actions: an emergency rule and implementation of a take reduction plan.

     Emergency Rule to protect right whales

        In December 1996, NMFS initiated a consultation on the American
     Lobster Fishery Management Plan under the Endangered Species Act to
     assess impacts of the fishery on protected species.  NMFS found that
     the current operation of the fishery would jeopardize the existence of
     right whales, unless changes were made in either the fishing practices
     or gear.  The Biological Opinion, released in December 1996,
     recommended that right whale critical habitat areas be closed to
     unrestricted lobster pot fishing until gear modifications are developed
     that significantly reduce the risk of entanglement to whales.

        An emergency rule that implements provisions of the Biological
     Opinion was filed at the Federal Register on April 1, 1997 and
     published on April 4.  This action:

     -  Restricts the Federal portion of Cape Cod Bay right whale critical
     habitat to certain lobster gear types approved by NMFS from April 1
     until May 15.

     -  Closes the entire Great South Channel right whale critical habitat
     to lobster pot fishing from April 1 to June 30.

        These actions will reduce the risk of entanglement to right whales
     during a time of peak right whale abundance in the critical habitat
     areas.  Because a small proportion (under 10%) of the total lobster
     landings are made between April and June, this emergency rule is not
     anticipated to have a significant impact on the lobster industry.

     Proposed rule to implement the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan

        The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) requires NMFS to develop and
     implement a take reduction plan to assist in the recovery or to prevent
     the depletion of each strategic stock that interacts with a Category I
     or II fishery.  Category I or II fisheries are fisheries that have
     frequent or occasional incidental mortality and serious injury of
     marine mammals, respectively.
        The immediate goal of a take reduction plan is to reduce, within 6
     months of its implementation, the mortality and serious injury of
     strategic stocks incidentally taken in the course of commercial fishing
     operations to below the PBR levels established for such stocks.  The
     long-term goal of the take reduction plan is to reduce mortality and
     serious injury of marine mammals incidental to commercial fisheries to
     levels approaching a zero mortality rate goal.

        A strategic stock is a stock:  (1) For which the level of direct
     human-caused mortality exceeds the potential biological removal (PBR)
     level; (2) which is declining and is likely to be listed under the
     Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the foreseeable future; or (3) which is
     listed as a threatened or endangered species under the ESA.  The
     incidental bycatch of strategic stocks in this fishery exceeds the PBR
     levels established for these stocks.  (PBR is defined as the maximum
     number of animals that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while
     allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable
     population level.)

        In August 1996, NMFS convened the Atlantic Large Whale Take
     Reduction Team (ALWTRT) to develop a plan to reduce the take of large
     whales (right, humpback, fin) incidental to the following U.S. North
     Atlantic fisheries:  the New England sink gillnet fishery, the lobster
     trap/pot fishery in the Gulf of Maine and mid-Atlantic, the coastal
     gillnet fisheries in the mid-Atlantic, and the shark driftnet fishery
     in the southeastern U.S. Atlantic.  These fisheries are all listed as
     Category 1 fisheries due to their interactions with marine mammals,
     particularly the right whale

        Although the ALWTRT did not reach consensus on management measures,
     they submitted a report to NMFS which was used in the development of
     the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.  The proposed rule filed
     by NMFS on April 1, 1997, and published on April 4, contains proposed
     implementing regulations which include the following measures:

     -  seasonal time/area restrictions on setting gear in the Northern
     right whale critical habitats of Cape Cod Bay, the Great South Channel,
     the Florida/Georgia coastal corridor;

     -  a contingency plan that may be activated in the event of unusual
     whale distribution, that could include more extensive restrictions in
     certain areas, including Jeffrey's Ledge, Stellwagen Bank, and other

     -  gear modifications requirements, such as using breakaway buoys,
     number of allowable vertical lines on certain gear, weak vertical
     lines, or sinking line,

     -  improved response and assistance to entangled large whales;

     -  skipper workshops to increase awareness of responsible fishing
     practices and new gear technology to avoid interactions with marine

        These proposed measures, if implemented, are expected to
     significantly decrease the risk of entanglement to large whales.
     Proposed time/area closures will reduce or eliminate fishing effort
     when and where whales are most vulnerable.  Proposed gear modification
     requirements are designed to allow whales to break through encountered
     gear or reduce the severity of an entanglement.  The expansion of the
     disentanglement network, a group of large whale biologists trained to
     disentangle live whales from fishing gear, will reduce the impacts of
     entanglement on individual whales and on the whale populations.