To the editor:
The main lobster man begins in 2022 with a unique opportunity to fundamentally solve the problem of whale entanglement. Throughout history, technology has been used to improve our lives and solve complex problems. The invention brought us mobile phones, computers, satellites, and soon self-driving cars and lunar bases.
Technology can end whale mortality in the red shrimp fishery, while making the fishery more efficient and safer, reducing gear collisions and gear loss. NOAA has given the red-spotted shrimp fishery a 10-year period to significantly reduce the risk of endangered right whales. Instead of spending millions of dollars to get out of it, fishermen can innovate how to get out of it.
For example, Stonenton’s Main Coastal Fisheries Center is experimenting with trap underwater reflectors through a skipper program for quick placement in depth detectors. Together, they have created a list of best practices for assembling gear, and we hope that these innovations will enable fishing without fishing lines in the new Maine closure.
In 2020, we tested the low press gear system manufactured by Edgetech and SMELTS in the waters of Frenchman Bay and Mount Desert Rock. Low press fishing is a new technology that removes buoys and end lines that entrain whales and displays the stored lines and buoys when triggered or replaces them with an acoustic release that fills the airbag. During the 9-day test, we performed over 60 deployments and were almost 100% successful in getting them.
This year, in collaboration with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and gear makers, we have established a low press test program with eight main lobster and gillnet fishermen. These pioneering fishermen have tested low presses 28 feet of tide and 35 miles offshore from Eastport to Kennebunkport, demonstrating that these systems work in Maine.
Teledyne, a giant tech company that recently purchased FLIR and RayMarine for $ 8 billion, is one of more than 12 groups around the world designing and engineering advanced lowpress and tracking systems. These groups manufacture acoustic transducers mounted on the hull, smart buoys, and underwater gear markings, all of which are working to seamlessly integrate into the fisherman chart plotter.
Society wants fishermen and whales to coexist, so societies are willing to pay for this shift. The greatest risk of whales was more than 10 miles offshore, so we need to focus on federal license holders, who make up 25% of Maine’s fleet. Offshore fishermen use a series of traps with two end lines and two buoys. Removing one vertical line and replacing it with a low press system immediately reduces the risk of entanglement by 50%.
In Canada, Acadia snow crab fishermen are on the verge of becoming completely low-pressed. This winter, Massachusetts fishermen will be low-pressed in a closed area of right whales. The Maine Legislature can fund innovation and testing. Rolling up your sleeves and working together can solve this conundrum and strengthen the Mains red-spotted shrimp fishery for generations to come.
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