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Current Large Whale Gear Research

Gear Research Projects

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Reducing Rope Damage in Sinking Groundlines by Adjusting the Lobster Gear Hauling Equipment 10/1/07 through 9/30/08 $44,700 The goal of this project is to evaluate how minor changes to lobster gear hauling equipment will affect the service life of non-buoyant sinking groundline. Final Report on a Project Designed to Reduce Damage to Sinking Groundlines by Adjusting Lobster Gear Hauling Equipment (revised 2/3/09) Hauler configuration plays a major role in determining rope deterioration. Of the 22 configurations tested, the Hydroslave stamped steel sheaves provided the best results. Surface smoothness of the sheaves is critical in determining rope wear. Regardless of sediment intrusion, blended polyester and Polysteel sinking groundlines demonstrated greater breaking strength loss when compared to floating Polysteel line.
Skilligalee, Inc. Trap Gear Fishing Without Use of Vertical Lines 10/1/09 through 9/30/11 $60,000 Vertical lines have been identified as a source of entanglement risk to large whales, such right, humpback, and fin whales. This project, occurring off the coast of Maryland and in coordination with the NOAA Fisheries Service Gear Research Team, studies the feasibility of fishing trap/pot gear without the use of vertical lines when compared to fishing trap/pot gear in the traditional manner, with vertical lines. Trap Fishing Without the Use of Vertical Lines (December 2011) Over the course of two fishing seasons, 360 hauls were completed (180 traditional gear hauls and 180 hauls of gear without vertical lines). The grappling equipment was constantly modified to reduce hauling times and make the grappling easier and safer. Over the course of the project, the time to grapple trap strings without vertical lines was reduced by 44%. While it is possible to grapple gear without vertical lines, the report highlights a number of complications associated with this practice that exist, rendering it economically infeasible.
Pemaquid Fishermen's Cooperative Association Large Whale Entanglement Mitigation Gear Research 10/1/09 through 4/30/12 $91,500 Vertical lines have been identified as a source of entanglement risk to large whales, such right, humpback, and fin whales. Two projects are being conducted in the Gulf of Maine in coordination with the NOAA Fisheries Service Gear Research Team to help address this risk. The first project examines the feasibility of fishing experimental trap/pot gear without the use of vertical lines when compared to fishing trap/pot gear with the use of vertical lines. The second project will test a new gear modification device called a thwartable bottom link attached at the bottom of a vertical line Final Report - Large Whale Entanglement Mitigation Gear Research Projects (July 2012) The first project, Evaluation of Fixed Gear Fishing with No Vertical Lines, was successfully accomplished as intended, with the completion of 412 hauls of standard (control) gear and experimental gear (no buoy lines).  The average haul time for standard gear was one minute in comparison to 14.2 minutes for experimental gear.  In addition to the extra time taken to position the vessel and haul the gear, other drawbacks were encountered with the experimental gear included gear conflicts, potential loss in profits due to the loss in productive work time and hauling capacity, increased risk of injury when grappling the gear, compliance with state and federal gear marking requirements for buoy lines, and difficulty in grappling in less-than-ideal sea conditions.  The thwartable link portion of this project could not be implemented due to the unavailability of a suitable link for testing.
Maine Department of Marine Resources* Maine Fishing Gear Exchange and Research Program 10/1/09 through 12/31/11 $1,700,000 The Maine Fishing Gear Exchange and Research Program is a multidimensional project that focuses on addressing both gear and whale research needs to further management efforts to reduce interactions between large whales and fixed gear fisheries. Over $1M was provided to the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation to continue implementing the groundline exchange project in the state of Maine (the final gear exchange was held in August 2010). The remaining funds are being used to collect of gear configuration information from commercial fixed gear fishermen in Maine; to conduct aerial and boat-based gear density surveys; to implement passive acoustic buoys for detecting large whales; and to conduct plankton sampling off the Maine coast.

Maine Fishing Gear Exchange and Research Program Final Report (3/29/12)


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The core mission of this project, the Maine Bottom Line Project, was successfully implemented in which over 2 million pounds of floating groundline were collected from 2,000 lobstermen who received nearly $3 million in vouchers to be used toward the purchase of sinking groundline.  All collected line was either recycled directly or weaved to make doormats.  After completion of the groundline exchange project, other gear and whale projects were conducted, including collecting information on vertical line densities, assessing the operational feasibility of trawling up lobster gear, conducting right whale habitat work and passive acoustics monitoring for large whales, and completing two right whale research cruises in the Outer Fall/Jordan Basin region.
Maine Department of Marine Resources* Determination of Fishing Gear Density and the Potential Overlap with Endangered Large Whales in Maine 10/1/10 through 6/30/12 $549,450 This project furthers the efforts of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to reduce entanglement risks to endangered large whales. Four projects are occurring that collect information that can be used to address the most pressing issues facing management efforts by NMFS and the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team (ALWTRT), including risks associated with vertical lines. These projects include collecting information on the density and seasonality of vertical lines off the coast of Maine; collecting habitat use and distribution information for endangered large whale species through the use of passive acoustics; and collaborating with the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation to conduct lobster fishery conferences, which are intended to seek industry involvement to address issues facing the lobster industry, including risks to large whales from lobster fishing gear Determination of Fishing Gear Density and the Potential Overlap with Endangered Large Whales in Maine Final Report

Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
Appendix IV
Appendix V
Appendix VI
Appendix VII
Entanglement in fishing gear continues to be a source of injury and mortality for large whales, including humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), and North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) along the Atlantic coast.  Takes for humpback and right whales are above Potential Biological Removal as defined by amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act and continue to inhibit the recovery of these species . . .  
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Massachusetts Large Whale Conservation Program 10/1/09 through 9/30/10 $25,000 Through this project, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries staff continues to collaborate with staff at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies on the right whale surveillance and monitoring program for Cape Cod Bay and adjacent waters. Additionally, they continue to support the efforts of the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network and other large whale conservation needs, including ghost gear removal, enforcement of state and Federal regulations to address fisheries interactions with large whales, and outreach and education efforts. Massachusetts Large Whale Conservation Program (revised 2/7/11) The Protected Species Specialist conducted activities in support of large whale conservation efforts, including: collaborating with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies on the right whale surveillance and habitat monitoring program as well as the large whale disentanglement program, working with MA enforcement on ghost gear removal and gear compliance efforts, issuing advisories for the prevention of vessel strikes to right whales, and conducting numerous outreach activities.
Stigall Consulting Group, LLC (PI, Randy Stigall) Commercial Fishing Line RFID Tagging Study 10/1/10 through 9/30/11 $18,000 This study, which is being conducted in coordination with the NOAA Fisheries Service Gear Research Team, assesses the feasibility of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to identify and track fishing gear throughout the ocean and to identify the source of fishing gear recovered from entangled marine mammals. It also examines the logistics of utilizing RFID tags in the marine environment, including reading tags at sea, proper attachment of tags to fishing gear, and the longevity and durability of tags in a saltwater environment. NOAA RFID Fishing Line Tagging (November 2011) Initial at-sea testing of commercially available RFID tags were completed by either tying the tags to the fishing line or weaving them into the line. None of these attachment methods were successful. Several unprotected RFID inlays were immersed for 3-4 months in a saline bath and periodically tested for readability. Field tests involving these inlays were then completed. Tags were attached to the fishing line using self-fusing tape and run through the hauler 25 times. The Ultra High Frequency tags successfully maintained readability; however, the self-adherence attachment method could not withstand the hauling process. Suggested future research involves embedding tags within the line during the manufacturing process when the line is elongated.
* The Maine Department of Marine Resources project, "Maine Fishing Gear Exchange and Research Program," is also listed under "Fishing Gear Exchange/Buyback Projects" and "Marine Mammal Research Projects."
* The Maine Department of Marine Resources project, "Determination of Fishing Gear Density and the Potential Overlap with Endangered Large Whales in Maine," is also listed under "Marine Mammal Research Projects."