An in-person public scoping meeting on proposed changes to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan is scheduled for Portland, Maine, on Oct. 5 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The event will “collect public input on modifications to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan to reduce the risk of death and serious injury caused by U.S. commercial fishing gear to endangered North Atlantic right whales in compliance with the mandates of the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” the agency said in an announcement Thursday morning.
The session follows on months of legal setbacks for Maine lobstermen and their allies in federal court, with decisions allowing NMFS to move forward with new gear rules and area restrictions. That imperative to reduce risks still further will advance in other U.S. Atlantic fixed gear fisheries, which operate in waters from Maine to Florida traveled by the right whale population – now estimated at only about 340 animals.
“We are seeking suggestions for measures for all U.S. commercial fisheries regulated by the Plan (U.S. East Coast gillnet, Atlantic mixed species trap/pot, and Mid-Atlantic and Northeast lobster and Jonah crab trap/pot fisheries) that would reach a 90 percent minimum risk reduction needed to bring mortality and serious injury below the potential biological removal level for this species.”
The meeting will be held at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Community Education Center, in Hannaford Hall at 88 Bedford St., Portland, Maine 04101.
Public comments at the meeting will be recorded. Comments are also being accepted through an online portal at Regulations.gov through October 11, 2022.