DEEP: Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Final Rule Published by NMFS

Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
Final Rule Published by NMFS

October 19, 2007

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has published a final rule on amending the regulations for the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP) as mandated under the Marine Mammal and Endangered Species Acts.

This final rule affects fisheries currently covered by the ALWTRP (the Northeast sink gillnet, Northeast/Mid-Atlantic American lobster trap/pot, Mid-Atlantic gillnet, Southeast Atlantic gillnet, and Southeastern U.S. Atlantic shark gillnet fisheries) The rule also regulates some additional fisheries for the first time under the plan, including the Northeast anchored float gillnet, Northeast drift gillnet, Atlantic blue crab, and Atlantic mixed species trap/pot fisheries targeting crab (red, Jonah, and rock), hagfish, black sea bass, scup, tautog, cod, haddock, pollock, redfish (ocean perch), white hake, conch/whelk, and shrimp.

The rule implements broad-based gear modifications (e.g., expanded weak link and sinking and/or neutrally buoyant groundline requirements) in specific times and areas that would replace the Seasonal Area Management [SAM] and Dynamic Area Management [DAM] programs, folds in additional trap/pot and gillnet fisheries under the ALWTRP regulations, expands exempted waters and requires additional gear marking requirements.

Although most of the ALWTRP requirements will become effective April 5, 2008, there are some regulations that will become effective November 5, 2007 and the broad-based sinking and/or neutrally buoyant groundline requirement for non-exempt ALWTRP waters will become effective October 5, 2008.

The final rule extended the ‘Exempted Waters’ of Lobster Management Area 6 (Long Island Sound) to be the waters west of a line drawn from Montauk, NY to Watch Hill, RI. Lobstermen fishing in the waters east of that line (the non-exempt waters of Lobster Management Area (LMA) 6) or in other LMAs will have to abide by the necessary gear modifications (e.g., restrictions on down lines and trawl lengths) and marking requirements for those areas. CT licensed lobstermen fishing only in the waters west of that line will continue to receive Marine Mammal Authorizations and are required to continue to report any entanglements or mortalities of large whales during the course of their fishing operations but these lobstermen do not have to comply with the gear modifications and marking requirements referred to above.

To obtain a complete copy of the final rule or the current regulations, please contact Marcia Hobbs, Marcia.Hobbs@noaa.gov, 978-281-9300 ext. 6505 or visit the ALWTRP website at www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp. (N07-27)