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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bay of Fundy Fishermen, Scientists Respond to Critics

Fishermen, scientists try to develop gear that won't entangle whales

HALIFAX, N.S. — Canadian scientists and fishermen are trying to develop lobster gear that won't harm endangered whales at a time when entanglements are at record highs and U.S. environmentalists are exerting pressure to ban conventional fishing lines.

Fishermen in Nova Scotia have been experimenting with so-called sinking or weighted rope between their lobster traps in a bid to reduce the risk of ensnaring whales, particularly rare North Atlantic right whales, in their lines.

Hubert Saulnier, a lobster fisherman in the Bay of Fundy where many of the massive mammals go to feed in the summer, has been using the line for almost a year and monitoring it with underwater sensors.

He said it can still rise up in the bay's powerful currents and wrap around a whale, which may end up posing more of a danger to them because the line is so heavy it could make it more difficult for them to get free.

"That rope is probably not the right solution at this time," he said from Saulnierville on the province's southwest coast.

"We are being proactive now and if there are any solutions out there that work we would definitely act upon them."

The assessment comes after a controversial decision in the United States to phase in bans of the "floating" lines attached to lobster traps, which hook onto a line of traps on the ocean floor and rise straight up through the water column to the surface.

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