The enforcement of lobster trap rules far offshore is getting increased attention from state and federal regulators, who are turning to new technology to inspect gear for compliance with requirements that aim to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from deadly entanglements.
Michael Henry is a top fisheries enforcement officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration here in the northeast. He says physically inspecting bulky gear out in federal waters dozens of miles off Maine can be a daunting and time-consuming task.
“It’s been a challenge for us for a long time to be able to effectively haul lobster gear offshore — just the environmental challenges, the safety challenges,” he says.
But inspectors are checking to see if lobstermen are complying with requirements to insert weak links into their traplines, to help whales break through the rope, and to use rope that sinks to the bottom, instead of floating into the water column where whales are more likely to swim.
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