An international group of scientists, conservationists, fisheries managers and others are gathered in Portland this week for the annual meeting of what's called the North Atlantic right whale Consortium.
Federal regulators told the group that they are looking at a wide slate of measures to protect the endangered whales from entanglement in fishing gear. Some measures include reductions in the amount of lobster-trap rope allowed in the water and in the strength of that rope. The feds say they are also considering having a part of Cape Cod Bay that is now closed February to April closed to endlines but open to ropeless gear in the future.
But lobstermen could still get permits to fish in those areas if they use "rope-less" gear, which relies on acoustic signals to trigger a mechanism that sends a tethered buoy from the trap to the surface. But it's still an emerging technology, and many Maine fisherman do not believe it will work in the Gulf of Maine.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it will formally publish its full slate of proposed new rules early next year.
Updated 4:18 p.m. - to clarify - an area under consideration to be closed to endlines but open to ropeless gear would be a part of Cape Cod Bay that is now closed Feb-April - not NEW areas.