Zack Klyver

Right Whales: Lobstermen Accompany Scientists on Offshore Survey



Zack Klyver
Former director of Allied Whale, Dr. Moira Brown, is a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Dr. Brown has led research teams to conduct right whale surveys on four expeditions in the last 13 months.

BAR HARBOR — Two lobstermen followed an international team of scientists into right whale territory last week as part of a survey conducted by the New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Project.

The aquarium team opened extra seats on the Friendship V – the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. boat that hosted the tour – to lobstermen interested in the whales that have caused much commotion in Maine’s commercial fishing industry of late. Lobstermen Mike Myrick, who fishes 700 traps out of Cushing, and Robert Ingalls, who fishes 800 traps out of Bucks Harbor, were the chosen two.

Both fishermen recently joined hundreds of other lobstermen who were forced to replace floating line (used in setting their lobster traps) with sinking rope, due to 2009 regulations aimed at trying to reduce the chances of whale entanglement. Both Mr. Ingalls and Mr. Myrick have since lost gear due to sinking rope chafing on the ocean bottom. Overall, the switch was costly, they said.

While both Mr. Myrick and Mr. Ingalls are intimately familiar with the ramifications of conservation efforts, after 40 years of fishing, neither of them had ever actually encountered a right whale.

So, when Dr. Moira Brown – senior scientist at the aquarium and a former COA professor and former director of the school’s Allied Whale – and her research team contacted the Maine Lobstermen’s Association to inquire whether any fishermen would want to come aboard, Mr. Myrick and Mr. Ingalls, both MLA board members, jumped at the chance.

“We tried to get as many commercial fishermen on board as we could,” said Zack Klyver, lead naturalist for the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company. “And I’m glad. To me, this was the most important element of the trip – the fact that we are helping fill in the info gap about where and when the right whales are in the Gulf of Maine.”

For more maritime news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.

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