Off the coast of Sandwich, Massachusetts, in Cape Cod Bay, since 2019, thirty lobstermen have been actively testing trap gear and twenty are waiting to join in. The program is to test prototypes to identify which gear works best and might be scaled up for broad commercial use. Pot buoys and lots of line have been replaced with inflatable buoyant buoys and electronics with telltale beeps that position the vessel above their gear and causes traps to rise to the sea surface. The testing program is expected to continue for another two years before the government could decide to make ropeless traps mandatory.
The Stewarding Atlantic Fisheries Ecosystems by Supporting Economic Assistance and Sustainability (SAFE SEAS) Act (S.3765) will help lobstermen and women with the financial burden to stop using traplines and pot buoys by authorizing grant assistance to help cover the costs of the new ropeless lobster traps and compliance with new regulations.
Lobstermen and consumers should not have to cover the costs of new gear to rescue right whales from potential entanglements. Right Whales are a national treasure, pride of New Englanders, and sometimes companions of boaters and beach goers.
The $1.7 trillion spending package recently passed by Congress included a six-year pause on regulations for the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries to reduce the risk of right whale entanglement in trap pot lines. More time is needed to develop and put into production ropeless trap gear.
The bill is vitally needed because it will expedite the deployment of ropeless lobster pots, will avert a reason for increasing the cost of lobsters, and will free boat operators from having to steer around lobster pots to avoid propellor or rudder entanglements.
Please tell Congress why the government (and not citizens) should equip lobstermen with better lobster traps that will no longer endanger whales.
Gloucester Daily Times: Winning the fight for the lives of whales June 1, 2023 (Also the Boston Herald, April 16, 2023)