WASHINGTON (CN) – In response to recent increases in the incidental killing of porpoises by the gill net fisheries of the east coast, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to amend the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan to expand the fisheries covered under the plan and to create so called “consequence” closure areas to punish fisheries that do not comply with the take reduction plan.
Poor compliance with existing measures and increased bycatch outside of existing management areas are the primary reasons for the increase in porpoise deaths, according to the agency. In some areas the agency has observed only 10 percent compliance with the placement of the proper number of pinging devices attached to gill nets to warn off porpoises.
Consequence closure areas would be areas of high harbor porpoise bycatch that would become seasonally closed if the observed average bycatch rates over two consecutive management seasons indicate that bycatch in the area exceeds the target rate. In 2007 approximately 652 porpoises were killed, up from an annual rate of 515 from 2000 to 2005.