On November 16, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit stayed the preliminary injunction issued by the lower court that prevented the roughly 967-square-mile LMA 1 Restricted Area, established by the 2021 amendments to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, from going into effect, said the Maine Department of Marine Resources, in an advisory to those fishing for lobster and crab offshore.
The DMR was extending the notice Nov. 18 on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division.
Lobster and Jonah crab trap/pot fishermen fishing in the LMA 1 Restricted Area must remove all trap/pot gear from this area, and may not reset trawls being actively fished, or set new trawls in this area as of today. The area will remain closed through January 31, 2022.
“Given the capacity of offshore fishing vessels to remove and relocate trawls, as well as potential weather and safety concerns, we anticipate it could take up to two weeks for all lobster and Jonah crab trap/pot gear to be removed from the LMA 1 Restricted Area,” said NOAA.
The LMA 1 Restricted Area was created to protect endangered right whales from the risk of entanglement from buoy lines in an area of high co-occurrence. Therefore, fishing with traditional persistent buoy lines is not allowed in this area from October 1 through January 31 each year, when right whales are in this area. See recent right whale sightings and acoustic detections on the NOAA WhaleMap.
Fishermen who are part of a research project and have obtained the appropriate state and federal permit exemptions may fish in this area with ropeless gear, said NOAA.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NOAA Fisheries is responsible for implementing Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan measures that reduce mortality and serious injuries of right whales in U.S. commercial fisheries to levels below the stock’s MMPA-defined Potential Biological Removal level, which amounts to less than one North Atlantic right whale per year.
“The agency is also responsible for conserving and recovering the North Atlantic right whale under the Endangered Species Act and for ensuring that federally permitted fisheries are not jeopardizing the continued existence of this critically endangered species,” said NOAA.
For more information, read the bulletin.