Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ropeless fishing gear: Last chance for the North Atlantic Right Whale?

Hello, this is Ingrid again! This week I am writing about hopeful solutions for protecting the North Atlantic right whale.

                                                                   Photograph credit: Carol Carson

The North Atlantic right whale species will go extinct if we have more years like 2017. In 2017, at least 17 North Atlantic right whales were killed, 12 of them in Canadian waters, from entanglements in fishing gear and from ship strikes. At least some of the entanglements that killed right whales in Canada were from whales that got wrapped up in ropes used in the snow crab fishery. In the US, whales are often entangled in ropes used in the lobster fishery.

Canadian and US fishermen, politicians, managers, scientists, environmentalists, and the public know the right whales need help and lots of people are stepping up to try to save them. In both Canada and the US, regulators hope to find management solutions that allow the industry to support the families and communities that rely on them.

Fishermen and scientists are working together, and some fishermen are partnering with scientists to test out new ropeless fishing gear this season. The ropeless gear does not have vertical lines leading from the surface buoys to the crab or lobster traps below on the sea floor like normal crab and lobster traps do, and therefore, whales can’t get entangled as easily in ropeless traps.

However, the snow crab season in Canada is scheduled to start in a few weeks, so there isn’t much time. Fortunately, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which manages the snow crab industry, made an announcement last week that it is implementing additional fishing and shipping regulations to protect the right whale in time for this year’s season. However, in both the US and Canada, unless the number of vertical lines from lobster and snow crab gear is reduced, right whales will continue to become entangled, with some of these entanglements leading to mortality.

If fishermen are able to successfully fish with these new ropeless traps, there is hope that with improved development of ropeless gear, continued collaboration with fishermen, and regulatory changes, there could be a future for right whales and fishermen in the North Atlantic. The actions of fishermen, regulators, and right whales over the next few months will determine if that future is possible.

                                                              Photograph credit: Carol Carson

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SAVERS FUNDrive - Saturday, April 21, 2018

2018 Fundraiser to help NECWA.

Help raise money for NECWA by donating your used items to SAVERS in Plymouth.

When you drop off at SAVERS, tell them that you are donating on behalf of NECWA and NECWA will receive money for each item you donate.

Date: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Time: 10 am - 2 pm
Location: SAVERS, Plymouth, 10 Pilgrim Hill Road

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Nature of Conservation: Where are the North Atlantic right whale calves?

                                                                                                                                   Photograph Credit: Krill Carson

Hi! This is Ingrid Biedron again, and this week I'd like to highlight North Atlantic right whales.

No new North Atlantic right whale calves have been sighted this season. Usually right whale calves are seen in January and February in ocean waters from Georgia to Florida. On average, about 17 calves are born per year. 2017 was a tragic year for the North Atlantic right whale. At least 17 right whales were found dead, 12 in Canada and 5 in the United States (US).

Right whale fluking off Race Point, Provincetown, MA. Photograph credit: Krill Carson
Only about 450 North Atlantic right whales remain, and of those, less than 100 are breeding females. Although the right whale population grew in the 2000’s, in recent years, the population has been declining. Entanglement in lobster and snow crab gear and ship strikes in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Canada and along the east coast of the US are the main causes of mortality. An increasingly industrialized ocean, including ocean noise from oil and gas exploration, shipping, and development, and warming waters, could add stress to right whales, decreasing their immune system health and calving rates. The prospect of a year with no right whale births after a year of catastrophic number of right whale deaths is devastating for a species teetering on the edge of extinction.

Left side photograph of a right whale. Photograph credit: Krill Carson

Twenty years ago, the Vaquita, a porpoise species found in the Northern Gulf of California, with about 30 individuals remaining and a handful of fishing entanglements away from extinction, was in the same situation as the North Atlantic right whale. Twenty years from now, the right whale may already be extinct if we don’t act faster and more effectively to save them. Many people, scientists, government officials, environmentalists, fishermen and citizens are working hard to save the right whale. An international working group has formed to find science-based solutions and the New England Aquarium held a workshop on developing less dangerous fishing gear last month. The awareness and concern for the plight of the right whale are heartening and necessary to pull the species back from the brink of extinction. But they’re not enough.

Two right whales skim feeding in Cape Cod Bay.

Summer is coming, and right whales can’t take another year like last year. We must all act now to stop right whale deaths in Canada and the US. The US and Canadian governments, scientists, environmental NGOs, fishermen and public must find a way to slow down the ships and stop the entanglements now. The snow crab season starts in the coming months and we need action by then. If US senators and congresspeople and the Canadian government hear from their citizens that they want to save the right whale, that gives them the political cover they need to fight for the right whales.

If you want to help save the North Atlantic right whale you can! The first step is to tweet, call, email, write or visit your US senator or congresspeople, or if you live in Canada, your representative and Prime Minister Trudeau. There is still time to save the right whale, but we need to act now.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

New NECWA Toddler Shirt - As Cute as a Baby Whale

Hot off the press, this toddler shirt is super adorable for anyone who loves whales! 

How can you say no to this shirt with the text ""I'm as cute as a baby whale!"

The baby humpback whale design is the creation of artist Mary Jo Danton.

This 100% cotton, 5.5 oz shirt comes in two colors: pink and aqua colors. 

Toddler sizes to choose from are 2T, 3T, 4T, 5-6 and 7.

All toddler shirts are $13 plus shipping and handling.

To purchase yours today and support NECWA's projects and activities, go to our NECWA online Store by clicking HERE.

All proceeds from the sale of merchandise through NECWA's online store go to support our many projects and activities. 

Thank you!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

NECWA at the New England Saltwater Fishing Show

NECWA will once again have a booth at the New England Saltwater Fishing Show from March 9th through March 11th. 

We will be chatting up our New England Basking Shark and Ocean Sunfish Sighting Project (www.nebshark.org) as well as our Diamondback Terrapin Sighting Project. You can pick-up our free sighting keytags for these projects as well as Mass Audubon's Sea Turtle Sighting Network.

Stop by the booth and say hello to the NECWA crew! We will have lots of free give-aways as well as a few things for purchase to help support our efforts. 

See you there!

Team Mola talk at the Wellfleet Public Library on Sunday, March 4th

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Nature of Conservation: Hawaii Adventure with Dad

In January of this year, my dad and I went on a trip to Hawai’i, to the islands of Hawai’i Island and Oahu. We enjoyed exploring a tropical environment with diverse and beautiful ecosystems and welcoming people. I only was able to glimpse a fraction of what the region holds, but I enjoyed seeing manta rays, humpback whale, green sea turtles, many fish, and even a monk seal! 

In addition to being in Hawai’i for vacation, I was there as part of a team to review work of the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center, a collaboration between the United States Geological Survey (USGS), also under the Department of the Interior, and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, University of Guam, and other research partners. We also visited the Hawai’i Wildlife Research Center, the only center of its kind in Hawai’i, which provides wildlife rehabilitation to native wildlife, mostly birds, in Hawai’i. 

I think NECWA and the Hawai’i Wildlife Research Center both exemplify a profound dedication to and care for the creatures on this planet. Their work should be acknowledged and supported by the people, communities, and state and federal agencies that depend on them to step up and help where no one else does. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Nature of Conservation: Your Voice Does Matter

Hi: This is Ingrid Biedron again.

I learned from a colleague who works on the Hill that it DOES make a difference if you contact your Senator or Congressperson! You can tweet them, call them, e-mail them, send them a letter, or visit them in person! It does matter! Even as few as 10 tweets on one issue is sometimes enough for a staffer to highlight that issue for their boss, the Senator or Congressperson. 

If you care about an issue, I encourage you to let your representatives know, in the way that is easiest for you. It is important that you contact the representatives for the STATE YOU LIVE IN! Most likely, representatives will be concerned about responding to issues that their constituents care about, so that they can count on their votes for re-election. That means that representatives will most likely listen to and address the concerns of the people they represent but may not pay as much attention to comments from people living outside the state they represent. To find out who your Senators and Representatives are and what their contact information and twitter handles are, I suggest just googling them!

Since I am an environmentalist and I am concerned about increased offshore drilling in US waters, I suggest you reach out to your representatives on this issue, letting them know if you don’t want drilling in US waters (right now, most coasts on the Continental US and Alaska, except for parts of Florida, are on the table for drilling as soon as 2019). If you would like to voice your concerns to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Federal Agency (under the Department of the Interior) regulating offshore drilling in the US. 

It is very important that as many people as possible attend the pubic listening sessions at various cities in the next few weeks and/or submit your comments online! 

Here are the New England public listening sessions:
  • February 13 – Hartford, CT
  • February 27 – Boston, MA
  • February 28 – Providence, RI
  • March 5 – Concord, NH
  • March 7 – Augusta, ME
Here are the links listing the public listening sessions and describing how to submit your comments online.