Scientists Set Record Straight on Ideal Whale Threat in Maine

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“As scientists we contact on Maine, with each other with all New England states and their representatives, to present their complete assistance for NOAA’s efforts to create and implement new, productive, and science-primarily based danger-reduction measures that will defend each whales and fishermen from the significant dangers they each face.”

Eighteen scientists with major knowledge on North Atlantic suitable whales have set the record straight on the level of danger that the species faces in Maine waters from entanglement in fishing gear.  

The scientists criticize current efforts by Maine to delay or suspend the improvement of new fishing regulations vital the suitable whale’s survival, in a letter addressed to Senator Susan Collins, cc’ing Maine’s congressional delegation and governor, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association—which not too long ago withdrew its assistance for the April 2019 Atlantic Significant Whale Take Reduction Group proposal for new conversation measures. The letter also cc’ed the Maine Division of Marine Sources, the Atlantic Significant Whale Take Reduction Group, many representatives from NOAA fisheries, and many press outlets.

Entanglement in fishing gear, mostly the buoy lines applied by lobster, crab, and other trap fisheries, has been the major lead to of death for suitable whales more than the final 10 years

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The scientists right 3 primary points of mis-facts shared by Maine congressional delegation and lobster market. They conclude that: “the quantity of North Atlantic suitable whales in Maine waters, the quantity of entanglements that are occurring in Maine waters, and severity of all entanglements and their effects upon the suitable whale population are all drastically underestimated.”

(Study the complete letter right here.)

Debunking the Maine Myths with Information

1. Right whales are widespread in each Maine and U.S. waters

Ideal whales have been observed in Maine lobster management zones throughout just about every month of the year, often in important numbers. These observations are probably a important underestimate of the quantity of whales present, as systematic visual or acoustic surveys have not been carried out in current years. Due to extended dive occasions and lack of noticeable dorsal fin, it is totally probable that most fishermen have under no circumstances observed a suitable whale in Maine waters, but that does not imply they are absent.

Also, not all suitable whales are migrating to Canada. Only 130 to 150 suitable whales have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in current years, which means that about two thirds of the population are occurring elsewhere, lots of of them in U.S. waters. Also, to get to Canadian waters, suitable whales necessarily travel via the Gulf of Maine throughout their annual migration.

Since suitable whales are challenging to see, are distributed unpredictably, and simply because Maine waters have higher concentrations of the suitable whale’s principal prey and have not been topic to systematic surveys in current years, the numbers of North Atlantic suitable whales that happen in Maine waters are probably significantly underestimated by fishermen and managers.

two. Lobster trap density and place imply that entanglement in Maine waters is a important concern

Combined, higher lobster trap density and simultaneous whale occurrence will lead to entanglements in any element of the ocean. Ideal whales are demonstrably occurring in Maine lobster fishing zones, and 87 % of the U.S. Atlantic lobster fishery falls with Maine waters—representing about three million licensed traps and 800,000 vertical lines. Just about every single vertical line poses an entanglement danger.

Couple of entanglements have been definitively tracked to Maine fisheries simply because it is very uncommon to determine the origin of gear to any fishery. Also, due to prior actions of the Maine’s elected officials, 70 % of Maine’s waters are totally exempt from regulations requiring gear to be marked with nation and state of origin. This implies it is not at the moment probable to figure out if suitable whale entanglements originated in Maine. Even with these challenges, from 1997-2017, 3 suitable whale entanglements have been definitively traced to the Maine coastal lobster fishery, and 3 extra to the offshore fisheries off Maine.

The higher trap counts, the existing gear marking scheme, and the challenges on each recovering and identifying fishing gear of any type, combine to significantly underestimate numbers of entanglement events in Maine waters.

three. Severity of entanglements impacts suitable whale overall health, reproduction, and survival

A single function that has not but been incorporated into the NOAA rulemaking method is that most entanglements have adverse effects on whales, even if they do not kill them. Non-lethal entanglements cut down overall health, delay reproduction, and contribute to reduced survival. By not accounting for the sub-lethal effects of entanglement, the NOAA method did not overestimate danger, as Maine’s elected officials and lobster market have recommended, but rather drastically underestimates the all round level of danger that entanglement poses to the continued survival of the North Atlantic suitable whale.

The scientists also note that suitable whale mortality is greater than observed—whales with chronic entanglements sink following death due to weight and fat loss, that suitable whale entanglement prices are high—nearly 85 % of all surviving suitable whales have been entangled at least when, and that entanglements happen everywhere there is fishing gear as suitable whales may possibly now happen in all U.S. waters at any time—the primary gear kind implicated in entanglements in U.S. waters is lobster gear.

Minimizing entanglements in east coast waters of the United States is vital for North Atlantic suitable whale survival and recovery

Credit: Georgia Division of Organic Sources / NOAA Investigation Permit #15488

The time for debate is clearly more than. Ideal whales are at significant danger from entanglement in the waters off Maine. This is scientific truth. Since the scientists sent their letter, Maine’s Division of Marine Sources has submitted an updated proposal to NOAA describing how the state will cut down the quantity of vertical buoy lines in offshore fishing places by a mere 25 %. The state’s most current proposal does not go almost far sufficient to present the level of protection required to save the species.

Continued political charades will only have 1 end—the extinction of 1 of the United States’ most iconic species.

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