Ropeless fishing options floated

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Whales and fishing gear increasingly occupy the same areas of ocean in the Gulf of Maine, and whales being injured or killed by entanglement with gear continues to be a top concern of scientists and regulators. Last week, scientists and other interested parties met for a day-long meeting on one idea they hope will reduce entanglements: ropeless fishing.

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Whales and fishing gear increasingly occupy the same areas of ocean in the Gulf of Maine, and whales being injured or killed by entanglement with gear continues to be a top concern of scientists and regulators.

While most Maine lobstermen say they have never even seen a right whale close to the Maine coast, statistics collected by NOAA explain why right whales are exposed to a high risk of entanglement off the Maine coast.

Based on data collected by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, there are some 2.9 million lobster traps in the water within 50 miles of the Maine coast. Even with an average of fewer than five whales per month passing through Maine waters, the density of gear makes the risk of entanglement very high.

Last week, scientists and other interested parties met for a day-long meeting on one idea they hope will reduce entanglements: ropeless fishing. The Ropeless Consortium meeting was held Nov. 6, the day before the annual meeting of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC) at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The meeting was closed to the press, but an agenda and overview of the meeting was available online.

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