CHATHAM — The region's commercial lobster fishermen want no changes in federal rules governing vertical ropes in the water as they face proposals meant to protect rare whales.
About 60 people attended a public hearing Tuesday hosted by federal regulators at the community center, one of 16 hearings held in August and September along the East Coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service is attempting to tighten regulations that protect rare North Atlantic right whales, humpbacks and fin whales from getting killed or seriously hurt from commercial fishing gear.
The regulations have changed over the years to address whale entanglement in gillnet and trap/pot gear. But more protection is needed to prevent the whales from getting entangled in vertical lines that hang from a single buoy at the water's surface to a trap on the ocean floor, federal officials say.
Along the Massachusetts coast, the idea favored so far by federal regulators would close waters along the Outer Cape and east of Chatham to trap/pot fishing from Jan. 1 through April 30. The favored approach would require more than one trap/pot on a single vertical rope, called a trawl, depending on region and distance to shore, and fishermen would have to put more and bigger identifying tags on both trap/pot and gillnet gear.
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