Date of Award

8-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Marine Policy

Advisor

James A. Wilson

Second Committee Member

James M. Acheson

Third Committee Member

James R. Gilbert

Abstract

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), through the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP), implements regulations to reduce the risk of serious injury and mortality to Atlantic large whales due to incidental interactions with fishing gear, including gear used in the Maine lobster fishery. Although lobster trap buoy lines (lines extending from the lobster trap to a surface buoy) have been identified as posing an entanglement risk to large whales, risk reduction associated with buoy lines (such as requiring a specific number of traps per buoy line in certain areas) were not included in the most recent amendment proposals. One reason given by NMFS for not addressing the risk posed by buoy lines is a lack of information. In order to establish a baseline of information of the spatial and temporal distribution of vertical endlines in coastal Maine water, as well as basic information on the individuals in the industry and how they fish, a mail survey of lobster industry representatives was performed. While one segment of the fishing population (fishermen placing traps more than 12 miles from shore) was under-represented in the survey, comparisons with previous work support a high level of confidence in the survey results. The information collected by the survey was then used to evaluate the impacts of potential vertical line risk reduction measures on the Maine lobster industry. Analysis of survey data supported the conclusion that any type of vertical line risk reduction measure will have some level of impact on the Maine lobster industry. The cost and scale of the impact is varies from one area to another, due to spatial variation in fishery characteristics. In particular, regulations requiring certain numbers of traps per trawl and mandating the use of all sinking endlines have high costs associated with their implementation. Downeast Maine was shown to be especially vulnerable to vertical line risk reduction regulations, due to the high dependency of resource users on income from the lobster fishery and unique ecological conditions (strong tides, ledge and rock substrate). The Maine lobster fishery, unlike many New England fisheries today, remains productive and serves as an important source of income for many. Landings have continued to rise even as new entrants join the fishery. More participants, faster, larger boats, better gear, and fewer conflicting fisheries have resulted in more lobstemen placing gear in offshore areas frequented by large whales, increasing the potential for entanglements of endangered and threatened species. The unique ecosystem conditions of coastal Maine offer us the chance to re-examine how we manage interactions between resource users and endangered and threatened species, and provides the United States with the opportunity to become proactive leaders in large whale take reduction.

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