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New emergency rule bans fishermen from parts of Massachusetts Bay for 3 months



The emergency rule will be in place from Feb. 1 to Apr. 30.

Concerned with increased right whale mortality rates, a new federal rule will prohibit fishermen from parts of the Massachusetts Bay. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File

An emergency rule from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or (NOAA) will prohibit fishermen from parts of Massachusetts Bay, the administration announced Tuesday.

As North Atlantic right whales make their annual return to Massachusetts, NOAA is telling fishermen they must remove all “trap/pot gear” from the area from Feb. 1 to Apr. 30. Fishermen are also not allowed to place any new gear during that time.

The restrictions come at the request of the Commonwealth, and prohibit fishermen from an area known as the Massachusetts Restricted Area Wedge, or MRA.

Map courtesy of NOAA

“Given the high likelihood that endangered right whales are present throughout this area and in adjoining waters during February through April, the MRA Wedge poses a particularly high risk of mortality or serious injury from entanglement in fishing gear.”

Right whales often return to Cape Cod Bay in the winter, and as the Bay’s food supply dwindles, the whales end up in specific areas of Massachusetts Bay.

As the population of the right whale has steeply decreased since 2010, this action, also used in 2022, will likely limit right whale mortality with little economic impact, NOAA says.

Recent pushback against right whale fishing restrictions has limited potential environmental regulations, as fishermen and ship owners oppose several proposed protections.

However, recent federal legislation has given NOAA the authority to implement this emergency rule, which the administration says will protect the whale’s endangered population of 350.


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