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Vol. 3, No. 4


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Plan will pay fishermen for help with research

Boston, Massachusetts - Vice President Al Gore, appearing at the New England Aquarium September 2, announced several measures to protect US shores and oceans, including an extension of the US contiguous zone from 12-24 miles/19-39 kilometers for enforcement of environmental laws, and completion of a disaster relief plan that will pay fishermen to participate in fisheries research.

Photo: Vice-president and presidential candidate Al Gore announced ocean-related programs at the New England Aquarium on September 2. Gore also announced the release of a Cabinet report, Turning to the Sea: America's Ocean Future, which outlines 148 recommendations in four areas: sustaining the economic benefits of the oceans, strengthening global security, protecting marine resources, and discovering the oceans.

Some chafed at Gore's announcement of the federal disaster relief plan, which will provide $5 million to US commercial fishermen suffering economic losses following a series of closures of inshore fishing grounds designed to protect dwindling Gulf of Maine groundfish stocks. Legislators secured funding for the relief package in October 1998, and since then, fishermen and federal officials have been hammering out the details of its distribution.

Some said Gore's announcement implied that the White House was responsible for developing the plan, or that an additional relief package was being made available. But the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had only submitted the plan to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in August, and a White House press release described Gore as simply announcing NOAA's final approval of the plan.

Developed by fishermen from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, with involvement from NMFS and Congressional staff, the disaster relief plan would compensate permit holders and crew who suffered economic harm during a series of closures of inshore fishing grounds in 1999. Economic harm would be calculated by comparing the number of days fished from February through June 1999 with the number of days fished during the same period in 1998, before most of the closures took effect. According to NMFS, fishermen would have to commit to participating in fishery-related research over the next two years in exchange for receiving $1,500 for each day-at-sea not used due to the closures.

Rare right whale dies following entanglement

Cape May, New Jersey - Whale experts believe that an adult female North Atlantic right whale found dead near Cape May, New Jersey, on October 20 had died at least a week earlier from severe wounds caused by entanglement in gillnet gear, according to the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts.

Researchers and veterinarians from the New England Aquarium, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Mystic Aquarium, the Center for Coastal Studies, and the Cape Cod Stranding Network performed a necropsy, an animal autopsy, after the whale was towed to shore on October 21.

According to the New England Aquarium, the whale, identified as #2030, was first spotted with fishing gear on her on May 10, 1999, off the Massachusetts coast. She was seen again September 2 in the Bay of Fundy. Disentanglement teams then began attempts to free her and two other entangled female right whales in the area. They succeeded in removing two of three wraps of gear on #2030, but the third proved fatal.

The gear was deeply embedded across the whale's back almost cutting into the body cavity, exposing the shoulder blade and nearly slicing through the right flipper. Experts believe the whale may have become entangled in the gear months earlier, and that it tightened around her as she grew.

Only about 325 North Atlantic right whales are believed to exist. "Losing a female right whale of reproducing age is a critical setback to a population struggling to evade extinction," the New England Aquarium stated. Earlier this year, another adult female had died from a collision with a large ship.

Ship collisions and fishing gear entanglements represent the two most frequent human-related causes of death for North Atlantic right whales. An estimated 62 percent of North Atlantic right whales have scars indicating that they've been entangled in fishing gear.

New measures would tackle water pollution

Washington, DC - Proposals to combat water pollution, announced by the US Federal government in August, would require comprehensive cleanup plans that would share pollution reduction responsibilities among all sources contributing to the nation's 20,000 tainted lakes, rivers, and bays.

"Recognizing that no two pollution challenges are identical, [the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] is proposing to require site- specific cleanup plans for all remaining polluted waterbodies," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

Under the proposed rule, states would: prepare comprehensive assessments of waterways, identifying those exceeding clean water standards and pinpointing those facing the greatest pollution threats; set a cap on the pollution entering a given water body and decide how much of that pollution can come from sources such as factories, sewage treatment plants, farms, and urban runoff; and develop detailed cleanup plans and set timetables for implementing them.

The plans could entail tighter pollution limits for individual factories, sewage treatment plants, or other point sources, and limits on urban and agricultural runoff or other non-point sources. For "high priority" waters - including those where pollution threatens drinking water sources or endangered species - states are encouraged to adopt plans within five years.

For more information on the status of the proposals, visit EPA's web page at on the Internet, or call (202) 260-4078.

MA helps communities clean up coastal waters

Boston, Massachusetts - The Commonwealth announced in October that it will award $470,208 in stormwater cleanup grants to 11 coastal communities, and will also provide seven communities with technical assistance in restoring shellfish beds.

Under Massachusetts' Coastal Pollution Remediation Program, the state awards grants to coastal communities to identify and clean up sources of stormwater road runoff and other nonpoint source pollution affecting important areas such as swimming beaches and shellfish beds. "The record number of applications we received this year demonstrates that cities and towns are acutely aware of how important coastal water quality is to community preservation and the protection of biodiversity," said Bob Durand, Massachusetts Secretary of Environ-mental Affairs.

Under the state/federal Shellfish Clean Waters Initiative, agencies will provide seven other Massachusetts coastal communities with technical assistance to identify pollution sources to shellfish beds, determine appropriate solutions to pollution problems, find possible funding sources for cleanup, and assist with efforts to improve water quality and open shellfish beds. The initiative is designed to improve recreational and commercial shellfishing prospects locally while providing cleaner water overall.

Listing compiles Web sites for those who fish

Wells, Maine - A listing of more than 500 web sites attempts to provide a comprehensive catalog of Internet information of use to Gulf of Maine fishermen. It groups information according to topic, and is available on line at http:\\www.

David Lincoln of the Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership and Fishermen's Wives Association, who compiled the listing, presented it at the Gulf of Maine Environmental Information Exchange (GOMINFOEX) meeting at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve on September 29. Potential users are encouraged to visit the fishermen's site and comment on its usefulness via E-mail to

GOMINFOEX emerged from a November 1998 workshop in Boston titled, "Out of the Fog." It represents the efforts of government agencies, researchers, fishing groups, educators, grassroots organizations, and businesses working to make environmental information about the Gulf of Maine more accessible. The group is focusing mostly on the potential of computers and the Internet. More information on GOMINFOEX is available at