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Environment and Outdoors

Lobstermen To Begin Testing Rope-Less Gear Aimed At Reducing Whale Entanglements

Michael Dwyer
Associated Press
In this Wednesday March 28, 2018 photo, the baleen is visible on a North Atlantic right whale as it feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass.

Scientists at the New England Aquarium will be testing rope-less fishing gear with lobstermen in the Gulf of Maine. Their goal is to try to reduce the number of entanglements that could kill endangered North Atlantic right whales.Scientists estimate there are only about 450 right whales left in the ocean. And there have been no documented births this season.

Senior scientist from the New England Aquarium Tim Werner says the main threat to these endangered whales is entanglement in fishing lines from lobster traps. “Going rope-less is the only way we know for sure that whale entanglements will be completely avoided.”

Werner and his team will be testing fishing gear that employs a large floating spool instead of vertical rope lines. Werner says they’ve tried other types of gear that's easier for right whales to break through. But he says that’s still not as good as going rope-less.

Werner hopes to begin testing by the end of this year. Funding for the study comes from a federal grant worth more than $225,000.

Avery Brookins reported this story for the New England News Collaborative.