Tag Archives: North Atlantic right whales

NOAA pleads for urgency in right whale conservation, lobster gear changes

A previously unscheduled appearance before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council gave the opportunity for NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit to advocate for the necessity of adapting to new lobster and crab trapping gear to save both North Atlantic right whales and the lobster industry. A deal cut by Maine legislators in a recent congressional spending bill delayed new right whale protections for six years, so the agency is looking to have its new rules set up and ready to go when that period expires. In the meantime, there’s options open to expand on-demand fishing gear so there are fewer large ropes suspended in the water. The bill allocated $26 million to ASMFC for ropeless, on-demand gear, along with monitoring and cost recovery. >click to read< 08:09

Feds push ignorance defense for whale killing by offshore wind development

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the NOAA Fisheries agency have both put out what amount to “arguments from ignorance” claiming that offshore wind development has nothing to do with the recent whale deaths. “We know nothing about it so it must not be happening” is a ridiculous defense to the charge of offshore wind development causing the death of a lot of whales. But this is exactly what the Feds are now saying. NOAA Fisheries is a scientific agency and their version is more scientific, which is important because this is really a scientific issue. Let us look at their arguments. >click to read< 17:38

How new fishing technology could help save North Atlantic right whales

Captain Martin Noel and his crew have returned to the fishing grounds to retrieve their crab traps from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 140 kilometres off Shippagan, N.B. At the press of a button on Noel’s smartphone, an acoustic signal from a floating transducer pings an oxygen tank at the bottom of the ocean. That cues the tank to inflate a buoy, in turn, sending to the surface a line of traps from 300 feet below. Brimming with one of Canada’s most lucrative seafood catches, snow crab, these on-demand traps are pivotal to Canada’s plans to protect one of the world’s most critically endangered populations of large whales. >click to read< 10:06

Maine lobstermen: The other endangered species?

When President Biden signs the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill into law, Maine’s lobster industry will take a six-year step back from the brink thanks to the efforts of Maine’s congressional delegation which secured a last-minute addition that put further restrictions to protect endangered right whales on hold. “The pause doesn’t mean this is over,” said Boothbay’s Troy Plummer, member of Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) board of directors and lobster boat operator for nine years. “Everything is status quo until 2028, but we’ll have to do our homework,” said Boothbay Harbor’s Clive Farrin, lobsterman for more than 20 years and past president of Downeast Lobstermen’s Association.  >click to read< 10:10

Follow the Science? US Ignored Own Scientists’ Warning in Backing Atlantic Wind Farm

US government scientists warned federal regulators the South Fork offshore wind farm near the Rhode Island coast threatened the Southern New England Cod, a species so venerated in the region a wooden carving of it hangs in the Massachusetts state house. The warnings were delivered in unpublished correspondence weeks before Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management authorized the 12-turbine South Fork plan in November 2021. And they serve to underscore the potential ecological consequences and environmental tradeoff of a coming offshore wind boom along the US East Coast. President Joe Biden wants the US to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by the end of the decade. >click to read< 10:15

Feds: Whales Must Be Protected from Turbines

Soon after a group of opponents to proposed East Coast offshore wind projects hired a law firm with environmental regulation expertise, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a new plan to protect North Atlantic Right Whales and put it out for public comment. The opponents, with Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy as part of the coalition, had been pointing to the impact of the project on the whales for months and this protection and mitigation plan admits the problem is significant. One apparent result of that will be a major delay in publication of the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project off Virginia Beach. >click to read< 09:48

Wind Projects Off New England Put Endangered Right Whales at Risk, Warns NOAA Scientist

Planned wind projects off the New England coast threaten to harm the region’s dwindling population of endangered right whales, according to a US government marine scientist. The warning from a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, obtained by Bloomberg under a Freedom of Information Act request, underscores the potential legal and environmental perils of offshore wind development along the coast. President Joe Biden has a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind within the decade. Both initial construction of wind projects and decades of expected operation threaten to imperil right whales in southern New England waters, Sean Hayes, chief of the protected species branch at NOAA’s National Northeast Fisheries Science Center, said in a May 13 letter to Interior Department officials. >click to read< 11:26

Jerry Leeman – Why it is wrong to assume anything

I’ll use this photo to prove a point. NOAA uses a computer to pick where their assessments on fish stocks will take place. Here lies the problem. It’s in random spots, and they never make the same tow again at the same time of the year because they use a computer model that knows nothing of fishing. NOAA is taking the assumption that fish live everywhere. That’s pretty funny because if you knew anything about fishing at all, fish species don’t hang on every piece of bottom all day and night. They just don’t. Not only do fish have tails, but they also swim up into the water columns and travel with the feed and breeding cycles and changes of the seasons. >click to read the rest< by Jerry Leeman.16:16

Court decision offers new hope for Maine lobstermen fighting new regulations

A small sign of hope for Maine Lobstermen as a federal judge in D.C. District Court has ruled that new lobster fishing restrictions designed to protect North Atlantic Right Whales will be delayed until 2024 to give the government time to draft more effective regulations.  “We need to have time to get this done right,” said Maine Lobstering Union Executive Director Virginia Olsen. Judge Boasberg had previously ruled that fishing restrictions issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA didn’t go far enough to protect the whales. His new ruling sends the current biological opinion, which is the document containing the rules and the science behind them, back to NOAA. >click to read< 10:43

Judge rules two-year extension before lobster industry regulation changes

A Thursday afternoon opinion was confirmed with bipartisan agreement between environmental groups and Maine lobstermen intervenors to allow the federal government to come up with new regulations to reduce right whale entanglements. Judge James Boasberg of D.C. ruled in favor of the two-year extension as new rules from National Marine Fisheries Service were set to be released this fall. Video, >click to read< 20:43

Sustainability group pulls lobster certification over whales

Representatives for Marine Stewardship Council, which is based in London, said Wednesday that the suspension of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery’s certificate will go into effect on Dec. 15. The organization said in a statement that the danger North Atlantic right whales face from entanglement in fishing gear is a “serious and tragic situation” of “grave concern to all those involved in the fishing industry.” The Maine Lobstermen’s Association feels the MSC decertification is the “direct result of the federal government’s overreach and its misuse of science in overestimating risk from the Maine lobster fishery,” MLA Executive Director Patrice McCarron said Wednesday. >click to read< 17:42

Federal officials issued ‘economically debilitating’ rules on the Maine lobster industry, court filing says

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association on Thursday filed its opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals as the industry works to beat back regulations that it says will crush Maine’s signature fishery. Federal officials have proposed gear modifications to reduce the incidence of entanglement for endangered right whales, which number about 340. Other regulations would close certain areas to lobster fishing while the whales are migrating. The lobstermen’s association argues that the National Marine Fisheries Service must prove Congress gave it authority to issue stringent rules. >click to read< 07:17

Local banks give to lobster group

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association is getting a significant boost from two local banks to help fishermen on land and at sea. The funds come at a time when the MLA is working to represent the state’s lobster fishermen in a years-long legal battle with the federal government over its whale protection plan. Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, which has been in business for more than 135 years, and Machias Savings Bank, with 15 locations including Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, separately donated sums totaling more than a half million dollars to the nonprofit, fishery-focused organization during the last week. For the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, those donations, $325,000 from BHBT and $250,000 from MSB, represent the largest one-time donations that the association has received. >click to read< 08:11

Lobstermen may get temporary delay on new right whale restrictions

The lobster industry, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Center for Biological Diversity are involved in federal court negotiations over imposing new and tougher restrictions on fishing. The CBD brought a suit against the federal agency, arguing the rules imposed earlier this year don’t do enough to protect the endangered whales, as required by federal law. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of NOAA, said it needed two years, while the CBD suggested just six months,,, >click to read< 08:57

Lobstermen to state: ‘Step up’ and sue feds over gear, fishing restrictions

Stonington lobsterman Dwight Staples’ 37-foot lobster boat provides the essentials for 10 people. “This year has been different for me and maybe it has for you as well,” he told a large crowd in Portland Wednesday. “This year it seems so much I have to get up and fight to go to work. With all these restrictions, regulations coming down the pike, it seems as though we’ve had to get up and fight each and every day.” Staples addressed hundreds at a rally organized by the Maine Lobstering Union to oppose federal regulations on lobster gear and restrictions on fishing areas designed to protect endangered right whales. Union Director Virginia Olsen and others who are fighting the new federal regulations called on Attorney General Aaron Frey Wednesday to file suit against the federal government, rather than serve as an intervenor. >click to read< 17:25

Maine lobstermen fight back – ‘You have failed us’: Maine lobstermen face federal regulators

Maine lobstermen came face to face with federal officials out to impose stricter new rules to save the 350 remaining endangered right whales Wednesday. There have only been two whale entanglements in Maine, most recently in 2004, and no right whale deaths caused by Maine lobster gear. Despite that, NOAA insists these rules are necessary to further reduce the risk of a right whale death. >click to read< ‘You have failed us’: Maine lobstermen face federal regulators – There were some tense moments during a public hearing with Maine lobstermen and federal regulators Wednesday night a the University of Southern Maine in Portland.  The meeting comes after Gov. Janet Mills and members of Maine’s congressional delegation requested NOAA visit the state to discuss tougher rules on the lobster industry. >click to read< 07:51

Proposed Virginia offshore wind farm threatens North Atlantic Right Whales

The proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project is directly in the NARWs’ annual migration path. Dominion Energy has applied to erect 176 wind turbines, covering an area of approximately 10 miles by 15 miles—equal to the size of 85,000 football fields or the city of Tampa, Florida—located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Each turbine will sit atop a monopole extending a minimum of 80 feet into the water and about 120 feet into the ocean floor, and its height above the water will top 620 feet. That’s higher than the Washington Monument, which is 555 feet tall. “How to kill whales with offshore wind?” Wojick asks. “Just push them into traffic. The collision deaths would not be directly attributable to the wall of noise created by the OSW project, so who would know?”  >click to read< 08:55

FFAW, N.L. government team up in push back against lobster, snow crab being labeled foods to avoid

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program which runs what it calls a science-based seafood recommendation list to inform consumers, chefs, and business professionals, placed all Canadian lobster and snow crab on an “avoid” list because of what the group calls a potential impact for North Atlantic right whales to become entangled in fishing gear. But Jason Spingle, secretary treasurer of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), says the snow crab and lobster recommendation is “totally unfounded.” Spingle said of the hundreds of harvesters he has heard from, none have actually seen a right whale while fishing. What’s more, Spingle said, he only knows of two sightings in Newfoundland waters, neither during lobster fishing season and zero reports of entanglements. >click to read< 07:37

Why Was Lobster Red Listed? Defending Lobster Fishing

In the early 1970’s I was the youngest licensed lobsterman in the state of Connecticut (10 years old). I put my traps out off of Stamford harbor, pulling them in my 10′ Boston Whaler with a 8hp Envinrude. Sales of the lobster kept me in gas. Baiting the traps and dealing with the catch (mostly ghost crabs) put me off of crustaceans. I also love whales, although they do scare me ever since one bumped the boat I was sailing in the Gulf of Maine in the summer of ’81. So I had to read this The New York Times article: To Save Whales, Don’t Eat Lobster, Watchdog Group Says. And it’s….terrible. Graph, photos, >click to read< Written by Perry Boyle 08:55

Some ship operators push back at rules requiring slowdown for whales

Federal regulators who want to enforce new vessel speed rules to help protect rare whales can expect some pushback from ship operators. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the new proposed rules, which are designed to protect the last remaining North Atlantic right whales, last month. The rules would expand seasonal slow zones off the East Coast and require more vessels to comply with the rules. The American Pilots’ Association is concerned the new rules would make operations more hazardous for pilot boats, said Clayton Diamond, executive director of the group. >click to read< 13:41

Fishery interests urge judge to rule in lobster lawsuit

Parties in a lobster industry lawsuit filed against federal regulators are urging a judge to make a decision in the case because its outcome affects a parallel case that the parties have to act on. The federal judge considering this decision was the same who ruled last month that new regulations to protect endangered right whales do not go far enough and violate both the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. In that case, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg asked the parties to propose remedies. The lobster association’s case takes aim at newly enacted and proposed federal regulations to protect the whales, which the association says are invalid because they are based on flawed assumptions and calculations. The parties need to know the court’s opinion so they can develop proposed remedies that Boasberg ordered in the parallel lawsuit brought by conservation groups.  >click to read< 17:01

New Proposed Vessel Speed Regulations and New Draft Ropeless Gear Roadmap to Boost Protection of North Atlantic Right Whales

Today, NOAA Fisheries announced two important steps in a series of actions the agency is taking to protect and conserve North Atlantic right whales. We announced proposed changes to federal vessel speed regulations to further reduce the likelihood of right whale deaths and serious injuries that result from collisions with vessels. We also announced a new draft Ropeless Roadmap: A Strategy to Develop On-Demand Fishing. Both of these efforts are part of our North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery, a strategy that encapsulates all of our ongoing work across the agency and in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders to conserve and rebuild the North Atlantic right whale population. >click to read< 11:03

Massachusetts: New relief fund would buoy lobster industry

A proposed state fund would provide financial relief to commercial lobstermen whose livelihoods are being impacted by state and federal regulations aimed at protecting critically endangered north Atlantic right whales. Tucked into a $52.7 billion state budget awaiting action by Gov. Charlie Baker is a proposal to create a new grant program with $500,000 in initial funding. The plan calls for providing grants of up to $5,000 to licensed lobstermen to help offset the cost of purchasing new gear and equipment needed to comply with the new whale protection rules. The grant money must be distributed in a “geographically equitable manner” under the proposal. Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who pushed for the funding, said it will help buoy lobstermen who are struggling to afford the expense of upgrading their gear and equipment. >click to read< 17:50

Prince Edward Island: Fishermen wary of new gear mandated by DFO to protect whales

The federal government is making it mandatory for fishing crews to use the new gear as of January 2023. The ropes are designed to break more easily so whales won’t become entangled and suffer injuries if they swim into it. Lobster fisher Charlie McGeoghegan said it’s causing some concern in the fishing community who wonders if the gear is safe to use, if it will be lost more easily and how much it will cost to replace. The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for an exemption for lobster fishers but was denied. >click to read< 07:50

Whale entanglements dropping but threat remains, feds say

The number of whales entangled in fishing gear has declined recently, but the entanglements remain a critical threat to rare species, the federal government said in a report released Tuesday. There were 53 confirmed cases of large whales entangled in gear in the U.S. in 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday. That was a 25% decline from the previous year and a lower figure than the 13-year average, the agency said. Every coastal region except Alaska saw a decrease in whale entanglements, NOAA said. >click to read< 16:06

New restrictions on ships to protect whales coming

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been reviewing the speed regulations it uses to protect North Atlantic right whales, and according to spokesperson Allison Ferreira, the agency will publish new proposed rules within the coming weeks. A public comment process would follow. More than 50 of the whales were struck by ships between spring 1999 and spring 2018, NOAA records indicate. >click to read< 09:36

Lobster Season Comes to an end in LFA’s 33 & 34

Today is the last day in the season. It was a season of record prices according to the executive director of the Brazil Rock 33/34 Lobster Association, Dan Fleck. He says prices reached over $17 and discussed where they are at the close of the season “I would say $10. There are certain deals where people might be offered more in certain areas but we’re looking between $10 and $11 for a closing price in LFA 33 and 34.” Fleck is looking back on the season. While it was marked by rising fuel costs, he says it was also very safe. >click to read< 08:18

Massachusetts weighs relief fund to the lobster industry

Lawmakers want to create a new fund to help commercial lobstermen whose livelihoods are being impacted by state and federal regulations aimed at protecting critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. An amendment added to the Senate version of the $49.7 billion state budget, approved Thursday, May 26, would set up a lobstering closure mitigation fund through the state’s unemployment system with at least $12 million in initial funding. The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, who say the move will provide “much needed relief” for the lobster industry. “It is absolutely critical that we provide relief to the people in this industry which is so important to the commonwealth,” Tarr said. “As the second largest provider of lobster in the nation these workers are needed for another day, another year, and another generation.” >click to read< 08:03

Broad right whale regulations decried by Massachusetts lobster industry

Lobster industry representatives and conservationists are pondering regulations aimed at protecting right whales, which continue to hamper Massachusetts fishermen causing months of lost income. Since 2015, lobstermen have had to work around area restrictions prohibiting fishing in gillnet fisheries during the time right whales are often present. So far, the Bay State has reduced its risk to right whales by 92% through a suite of measures including closures, weak rope, line diameter restrictions and trawling up, Casoni said. >click to read< 11:11

Massachusetts: Lawmakers want to pay lobstermen during right whale conservation closure

State senators next week will debate a plan by South Shore lawmakers to pay lobstermen during a months-long annual fishing closure advocates say cuts income of some fishermen by as much as half each year. State senators Patrick O’Connor and Bruce Tarr have filed a budget amendment that would allocate $12 million to pay lobstermen $1 per week per trap they are licensed for during time they are not allowed to fish. The state annually shuts down more than 9,000 square miles of water for at least three months in efforts to protect migrating right whales. > click to read < 08:28