Feds eye new rules to protect right whales from fishing gear

August 25, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Federal ocean regulators are considering new rules to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear.

The whales number only about 360 and are vulnerable to entanglement in the gear. Most of the government’s efforts to protect them has focused on regulating gear used to harvest lobsters and Jonah crabs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it is working on a new phase of rules that will focus on other fisheries, including those that use gillnets and those that use traps and pots. Lobster and crab gear in the primary threat to the whales, but they are also vulnerable to gear used to harvest fish, conch and other valuable species, said Allison Ferreira, a spokeswoman for the agency.

NOAA said it’s hosting a series of webinars with members of the fisheries in September and October. The agency said the webinars will be used to gather input about the forthcoming rules.

NOAA has also been working on new rules for the lobster and crab fisheries. The agency said those rules are expected to be finalized soon.