R-10-07 Mitigating risk to whales from lobster fishing

Hauke Kite-Powell
Marine Policy Center
Crowell 204
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Entanglement in fishing gear is, along with ship strikes, the dominant source of human-caused injury and mortality for the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Lobster gear has been implicated in a number of entanglement cases, and recent management decisions seek to address the risk of entanglement by requiring the use of sinking ground lines between traps in lobster trap trawls, and weak links in trawl buoy lines, among others, at significant cost to fishermen.

This multi-state team of researchers will assemble data on fishing effort (through an improved characterization of lobstering activity with help from the Maine Lobstermen’s Association) and right whale movements, density, and behavior to support an entanglement risk index for Maine waters. The researchers hope to develop recommendations for how to reduce risk for whales. For example, it is plausible reductions in entanglements could be achieved by shifting lobster fishing effort, much the way ship strikes have been reduced by moving shipping lanes. To do this, it is necessary to understand the temporal and spatial distribution of right whales and lobster fishing effort (gear) in the areas where the two overlap, and to understand how different combinations of whale activity and lobster gear configuration contribute to entanglement risk.

Regional project funded by Northeast Sea Grant Consortium
Total [Maine] Sea Grant funds: $25,000 to Maine Lobstermen’s Association