[MARMAM] Open Access Article re Ropeless Fishing

Michael Moore mmoore at whoi.edu
Sat Jan 12 08:53:57 PST 2019

  How we can all stop killing whales: a proposal to avoid whale
  entanglement in fishing gear

ICES Journal of Marine Science, 


Whales are federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act; 
endangered species, such as the North Atlantic right whale, receive 
additional protection under the Endangered Species Act. However, their 
regulations have failed to satisfy conservation and animal welfare 
concerns. From 1990 to 2011 the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena 
glacialis, NARW) population grew at a mean of 2.8% annually. However, 
population trends reversed since 2011; the species is in decline, with 
only ∼100 reproductively active females remaining. This failure is 
driven by vessel collisions and increasingly fatal and serious 
entanglement in fixed fishing gear, whose rope strength has increased 
substantially. Chronic entanglement, drag, and associated morbidity have 
been linked to poor fecundity. Genuine solutions involve designating 
areas to be avoided and speed restrictions for ships and removing 
fishing trap ropes from the water column. A trap fishing closure for 
NARW habitat in the Cape Cod Bay (U.S.) area has been in place 
seasonally since 2015. 2017 mortalities in Eastern Canada elicited 
substantive management changes whereby the 2018 presence of NARW in 
active trap fishing areas resulted in an effective closure. To avoid 
these costly closures, the traditional trap fishery model of rope end 
lines attached to surface marker buoys has to be modified so that traps 
are marked virtually, and retrieved with gear that does not remain in 
the water column except during trap retrieval. Consumer demand for 
genuinely whale-safe products will augment and encourage the necessary 
regulatory changes so that trap fisheries conserve target and non target 

The PDF can be downloaded for free at this link 

Michael Moore

Biology Department

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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