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Gulf of Maine Times

Vol. 2, No. 3

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Gulf Log

  1. US President calls for focus on oceans' health
  2. Georges Bank panel plans public hearings
  3. US, Canada pursue right whale protection
  4. Maine sponsors YOTO conference
  5. GPAC workshop targets land-based pollution
  6. Gore announces funds to restore NH estuaries

At the Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Massachusetts, Jeremy Bumagin (left) and Rose Witte prepare rigging for Friendship, a replica of a 171 foot/52 metre, three-masted merchant tall ship launched in 1797. Chief Rigger Dave Mullen (not shown) also rigged the USS Constitution during its recent restoration. Friendship is being built by Scarano Boat Building Inc. of Albany, New York, under contract with the US National Park Service, and is expected to arrive in Salem by early fall. US President calls for focus on oceans' health

Monterey, California - At the National Oceans Conference here June 11-12, US President Bill Clinton called for more protection and study of the world's oceans, proposing "a $224 million initiative to enhance the health of our oceans while expanding ocean opportunities in responsible ways for the environment."

The National Oceans Conference was organized by the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Navy, at the urging of US legislators, to serve as the official US forum on national interests in the ocean during the twenty-first century.

During the conference, Clinton extended the nation's moratorium on offshore leasing for 10 more years, while permanently prohibiting drilling in marine sanctuaries; called for a cooperative effort with the fishing industry to rebuild fish stocks within 10 years; asked Congress to fund his $2.3 billion Clean Water Action Plan to address nonpoint source pollution; and announced other measures.

He also requested a long-term federal oceans policy from his cabinet and voiced support for creation of an oceans commission. The Oceans Act of 1997, introduced as companion bills in the US House and Senate, also calls for a commission on oceans policy. Canada passed a comprehensive Oceans Act in January 1997.

Georges Bank panel plans public hearings

Fishing boats materialize in Rye Harbor, New Hampshire, as a morning fog lifts.Halifax, Nova Scotia - In preparation for a decision on whether to extend beyond January 1, 2000 a Canadian drilling moratorium on Georges Bank off of southwestern Nova Scotia, public hearings on the environmental and socio- economic impact of petroleum exploration and drilling on the bank are to take place in Nova Scotia this winter at locations to be announced.

The Georges Bank review panel must make a report and recommendations on the results of the meetings to the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, and to the provincial Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Accord Act by July 1, 1999. The ministers must decide whether to lift the moratorium by January 1, 2000.

A drilling moratorium on the US side, enacted under former President George Bush, and recently extended by President Bill Clinton, is in place until the year 2012.

Visit for more information, or contact the Georges Bank Review Secretariat. From Canada call 1-800-370-2282. From the US call (902) 424-0858 or E-mail or fax (902) 424-0528.

US, Canada pursue right whale protection

Halifax, Nova Scotia - The Canadian Right Whale Recovery Team plans to hold public consultations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in 1999 on recommendations for increasing the endangered North Atlantic right whale population.

Dates of the consultations are to be announced, according to Jerry Conway, recovery team Co-chair and marine mammal advisor for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Scientists believe approximately 300 of the whales now live in the North Atlantic. They give birth to their calves off the coast of Florida and Georgia during the winter, then migrate north, reaching the Bay of Fundy by late summer. In decades past, the whales were hunted to near extinction. Present-day threats to the whales include collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing gear, and loss of habitat.

In an effort to prevent ship collisions, systems are in place in the US and Canada in which ships are informed of right whales' whereabouts using information provided by aerial surveys. This summer, the International Maritime Organization was considering a US proposal that would require commercial ships entering the whales' calving and feeding grounds to report by radio to the US Coast Guard, which would then inform the vessel of whales' locations.

The New England Aquarium and the Gulf of Maine Council have respectively convened informational discussions on whale/ship collisions. And several high speed ferry operators in the North Atlantic have agreed to work with consultants and researchers to reduce potential risks to whales from their vessels.

Addressing the issue of whale entanglement in fishing gear, in the US, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is developing a rule regulating the kind of fishing gear that can be used in right whale habitat. Lobstermen objected to an earlier version of the rule, asserting that it would put them out of business and would not necessarily prevent whale entanglements. Now, some are participating in NMFS-funded disentanglement and gear modification research in fishing areas off of Cape Cod, the Great South Channel, and the Gulf of Maine.

An interim final rule entered into the Federal Register in July 1997 was still in place a year later, pending enactment of a final rule according to NMFS Research Communications Chief Teri Frady.

Maine sponsors YOTO conference

Rockport, Maine - Maine will observe the International Year of the Ocean with a conference here October 9-10 that will take a critical look at the status of the state's resources and explore promising new management approaches.

Among the topics to be explored during the conference, Sea & Shore: Maine's Shared Resources in the International Year of the Ocean, will be human-induced impacts on the marine ecosystem, the status of commercial fisheries and new approaches for fishery management, and the implications of growth and development in the coastal zone.

In addition to the Maine Coastal Program and the Gulf of Maine Edu-cators Association, other conference organizers include the University of Maine Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension Programs, the Island Institute, the Chewonki Foundation, College of the Atlantic, Casco Bay Estuary Project, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. For information, visit the Maine State Planning Office web site or call (207) 287-3261.

GPAC workshop targets land-based pollution

South Portland, Maine - Participants in a November 15-17 workshop to be convened here by the Global Program of Action Coalition for the Gulf of Maine (GPAC) will identify actions for protecting the Gulf ecosystem from harmful impacts of land-based activities.

In 1994, Canada, Mexico, and the US established the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to address transboundary environmental concerns in North America. The Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), was developed under the United Nations Environmental Program in 1995, recognizing that approximately 80 percent of all marine pollution comes from human activities on land.

The CEC chose the Gulf of Maine as the site of a pilot project in 1996, and convened individuals from the US and Canada to create the GPAC to determine the priority problems requiring regional action.

Participants in an April GPAC workshop in Saint John, New Brunswick identified priority habitat and pollutants in the region. November workshop participants will assess activity currently under way to address pollutant and habitat issues, identify new projects, and form implementation teams.

For a copy of the April GPAC workshop report, or for more information, contact Heather Mair at the ACAP-Saint John office. E-mail or call (506) 652-2227.

Gore announces funds to restore NH estuaries

Durham, New Hampshire - Vice President Al Gore announced the availability of up to $1.6 million in new federal resources to help speed the restoration of New Hampshire's seacoast estuaries and reopen shellfish beds four years earlier than planned.

The Vice President said federal agencies will work with the state, with farmers, and with other property owners to reduce contaminated runoff, sewage, and other harmful pollutants. He also called on Congress to fully fund President Clinton's Clean Water Action Plan, which provides additional resources to communities and property owners to protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

The new funds will support the reopening of more than 700 acres/283 hectares of oyster and softshell clam beds in Portsmouth, the Great Bay Estuary, and the Hampton/Seabrook Estuary by 2001 - four years earlier than anticipated under state cleanup plans.

The money will also assist farmers in Maine and New Hampshire in protecting seacoast estuaries, and will create new models for locally led water protection.