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In the News | October 2023

NMFS to Permanently close Massachusetts “Wedge Area”

NOAA Fisheries image.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes to permanently expand the seasonally closed Massachusetts Restricted Area (MRA) to include the so-called Massachusetts Restricted Area Wedge through an amendment to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. The Wedge is a 200 square mile area which sits between the federal and state waters portion at the northern end of the MRA. This area had remained open to commercial fishing while all of the surrounding waters were closed. The proposed amendment would close this area to vertical buoy lines from February 1 through April 30 annually. According to NMFS, this would “permanently address the risk created by this open wedge area when large numbers of right whales are using and transiting through the area while trap/pot gear is actively being fished or stored in preparation for the May 1 opening of federal waters within the Massachusetts Restricted Area.”

The wedge area was closed by emergency rulemaking in 2022 and 2023 when federal officials determined there was immediate risk to North Atlantic right whales due to a high co-occurrence of buoy lines. The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association filed a lawsuit against NMFS in DC District Court in February 2023. The court did not grant immediate relief because the association failed to show irreparable harm from closure of the Wedge. When the Wedge area reopened, NMFS filed to dismiss the case which was granted by the court.

Hypoxia in Cape Cod Bay Result of Warming Climate

Massachusetts lobstermen were advised by the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) in September that low levels of dissolved oxygen were occurring in the southern end of Cape Cod Bay near Barnstable and in the waters between Provincetown and Wellfleet. A severe hypoxia event happened in 2019 causing a catastrophic lobster die-off in the bay. Sensors attached to buoys and traps have observed hypoxia conditions of varying severity each summer since then. Researchers now believe that intensified ocean stratification in Cape Cod Bay is a primary cause of the low dissolved oxygen levels. The stratification is a result of shifting wind patterns and warming ocean temperatures. Prevailing winds over Cape Cod Bay are typically from the southwest, but recent data indicate a shift to the northeast. Southerly winds trigger upwelling, which pushes warmer surface water out to sea and draws oxygen-rich cooler ocean water upward. But northeasterly winds are doing the opposite, pushing warmer waters down into the colder layers and restricting their oxygen-holding capacity.

2024 U.S. - Canada Lobster Town Meeting Early Registration Open

Registration for the 2024 U.S.-Canada Lobster Town Meeting, to be held in Moncton, New Brunswick on January 18-19, 2024, will be open exclusively to commercial fishermen/fishers/harvesters between October 15-November 15, after which registration will open to the public. The $75 registration fee includes conference materials, meals, and the popular seafood reception. Hotel rooms at the Crowne Plaza Hotel are available at $115/night ($155 CAD), including parking. To register and make hotel reservations, CLICK HERE or email Chris Cash or call 207-975-0003.

RWE Sells its Shares of Maine Offshore Wind Projects

In July, renewable energy company RWE reached an agreement to sell its shares of the New England Aqua Ventus (NEAV) pilot project and Maine Research Array (MeRA) to Diamond Offshore Wind (DOW). Recently RWE announced that it will focus on two U.S. offshore wind projects. On the East coast, RWE partnered with National Grid Ventures to develop Community Offshore Wind, a fixed-bottom project with a potential installed capacity of more than 3 GW. The nearly 126,000-acre lease site was purchased for $1.1 billion. In California, the company is developing one of the first commercial-scale floating offshore wind projects with a potential installed capacity of 1.6 GW. The 63,300 acre lease site was purchased for $157.7 million. RWE gained experience in floating wind turbines from two floating demonstration projects, TetraSpar in Norway and DemoSATH in Spain.

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