Maine received $5 million to support testing of alternative lobster fishing gear to reduce whale entanglement

Maine received $5 million to support testing of alternative lobster fishing gear to reduce whale entanglement

Maine has received more than $5 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand testing of alternative lobster fishing gear.

State officials see the action as a way to get more feedback in Maine into the hands of federal regulators, who are looking for ways to further reduce the risks of entanglement and injury to endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources said the money will support research and testing of two types of emerging technology — equipment that retrieves lobster traps from the ocean floor without using vertical lines and acoustic geolocation devices that locate traps without surface buoys.

The federal government may eventually require the use of this equipment as it drafts new regulations to manage right whales over the next five years.

Much of the $5 million will directly cover a training and outreach program with a variety of coastal organizations, which include Maine Sea Grant, the Island Institute Institute, and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, among others.

“They will be able to help establish regional centers to conduct demonstrations with the gear, train fishermen on how to use it, and collect data with fishermen who use the gear,” said Erin Summers, chief of marine mammal research. In Maine DMR.

Most Maine lobstermen have been reluctant, if not resistant, to consider using so-called “custom” equipment.

Erin Pelletier is executive director of the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, which is also involved in the DMR research program. She said she encourages hunters to participate in the testing.

“They need to have some say and provide feedback to the equipment manufacturers and the federal government to say this may or may not work,” Pelletier said. “But it really needs to be tested in the field, since they hunt on a regular basis.”

Hunters will borrow gear from the recently established Replacement Gear Library, paid for in part by a $100,000 donation from The Nature Conservancy of Maine. The additional custom-made hunting equipment will be paid for with federal money Maine received in last year’s omnibus spending bill.

Hunters who test the equipment will be compensated by tonnage, Summers said.

“Our fleet is really diverse,” she said. “All the fishing conditions they encounter up and down the coast — inshore and offshore — are very different from each other. The sizes of their boats, the number of crew members, all of those things multiply the types of gear they’ll be going with. “Being able to use. We really need to document all of these challenges.”

Testing of on-demand trap retrieval equipment and evaluation of geolocation devices is expected to begin next year.

This story was produced by the New England News Collaborative. Originally published by Maine Public.

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