Whale entanglements issue needs further study

Dear Editor:

Having participated in the NOAA Fisheries Draft Environmental Impact Statement scoping meeting in Bourne, Mass., on the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team recommendations, I feel that the 2017 Unusual Mortality Event (UME) needs to be explored further, since it includes right, humpback and minke whales.

Even though the focus of the Marine Mammal Protection Act DEIS dialogue has focused on North Atlantic right whales, in my opinion as a retired marine scientist we need to address the causes of the UME and not just the fixed gear fishery entanglements that cause acute (death) or chronic (nonlethal entanglements) stress in the female adult North Atlantic right whales.

To help identify the causes, I proposed an ecosystem approach to address North Atlantic right whale management concerns and developing a cumulative risk assessment of stressors (including climate change and ocean noise) throughout the range of the species (South Atlantic breeding grounds to New England/Canadian feeding areas). It appears that changes in the marine food chain from warming waters have resulted in both lobsters and large whale species migrating either northward into the Gulf of Maine/St. Lawrence or farther offshore, which has increased fishing gear entanglements.

David Dow

East Falmouth, Mass.

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