Federal officials have issued new regulations for the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries that are designed to protect North Atlantic right whales from entanglements in gear. But conservationists say the long-awaited rules don’t go far enough to save the critically endangered species.
The new regulations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) require lobstermen to add more traps per buoy line to reduce the number of vertical ropes in the water. They also restrict buoy lines in certain areas during seasonal whale migration south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and in the Gulf of Maine.
In addition, they require fishermen to make two significant changes to the ropes themselves: adding breakaway sections so that entangled whales can more easily break free, and markings to buoy lines to enable federal officials to differentiate gear by state.
Federal officials say the rules, which are four years in the making, will reduce the whales’ risk of death and serious injury by 69% — and more protections will be phased in over the next decade as part of a conservation framework.
But conservation groups say they wanted more aggressive measures, given the current status of the critically endangered whales.