NOAA rejects Northeast Seafood Coalition request to adjust Gulf of Maine harbor porpoise closure
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has rejected a request by the Northeast Seafood Coalition (NSC) to alter the boundary and timing of the harbor porpoise closure area in the Gulf of Maine.
The NSC made the request due to the projected economic losses the fishery would incur from the timing and location of the closure, and stated that their proposal, "provides a far greater degree of protection to harbor porpoise while having less of an economic impact to the struggling dayboat gillnet fleet." NMFS originally announced the closure of an area of the Gulf of Maine for the purpose of protecting harbor porpoises in April 2012, as a result of a high number of harbor porpoise takes.
Saving Seafood issued a special report on the harbor porpoise situation last May.
NOAA Fisheries' charge of low compliance rates has been controversial among fishermen. NOAA requires, in specific fishing seasons, an instrument called a "pinger," a small device attached to the top of the gillnet that emits a high frequency "ping" every four seconds. The ping warns the porpoise that something is in the area.NOAA has claimed that the cause of a high porpoise bycatch is the low percentage of fishing boats that are fully compliant with pinger regulations. Fishermen have argued that the pingers are temperamental and that NOAA's calculation of compliance rates is too inflexible. Pingers that run out of battery power, break, or are lost while deployed are considered non-compliant. Fishermen have stated that if they are missing one pinger out of one hundred nets, they are deemed to be in non-compliance.
Read the Northeast Seafood Coalition's original request to NMFS here
May 20, 2013 -- Fishing is a profession often passed down from one generation to the next. Many lobstermen in Maine fish the same bottom their fathers and grandfathers fished, and the same holds true of fishermen father offshore as well. Yet increasingly, anecdotal evidence has suggested that the old faithful fishing spots are no longer quite so reliable.