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  • MLCA

Maine Lobstermen Key to Vital Data on Vertical Lines in Lobster Fishery

New regulatory measures for fixed gear fisheries aimed at reducing the rate of serious injuries and mortalities of North Atlantic right whales due to entanglement are on the horizon. Serious information gaps exist, however, regarding how vertical lines are fished throughout the Gulf of Maine. Additionally, no data exist on the functional needs of the industry for vertical line hauling strength spatially. In July, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) began a project, in collaboration with New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, industry associations, the University of Maine, and FB Environmental Associates, a neutral third-party consulting firm, to collect data on vertical line fishing practices. The project’s primary goals include understanding current vertical line use and configurations, determining the functional breaking strength of existing vertical lines, and documenting the hauling loads experienced in the industry using load cells aboard fishing vessels. We are conducting an online and phone survey to collect information about how fishermen utilize and rig their vertical lines and how the use and configurations vary by area fished. The survey has been underway since August 2018 and we are continuing to conduct surveys by phone. We are also collecting samples of whole vertical lines from fishermen to test them for their functional breaking strength. This information will provide a baseline of the strength of lines currently being used by the industry. One of the gear modifications being discussed in the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan process is the potential of using reduced strength vertical lines. However, without a baseline knowledge of the strength of the lines currently being used in the industry, there is no way to determine if this regulatory measure will result in a conservation benefit for the right whales. The last component of data collection is the deployment of load cells on board fishing vessels. The load cells log the actual load experienced by the vertical line on a vessel as a fisherman hauls in his traps. These data will document the strength of a vertical line required under actual operating conditions to ensure that fishermen will be able to continue to fish safely and effectively under proposed measures to restrict the strength allowed in their vertical lines. The survey, rope strength and working load data will be used by the University of Maine to build a model to both describe the landscape of vertical line use and needs in the region and to assess potential regulatory measures through the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. If you are a licensed lobster fisherman and have not completed the survey, you may do so online at If you would like to donate a sample of vertical line or have a load cell on your vessel to test hauling loads, please contact me at FB Environmental Associates. I can be reached by phone at 706-9466 or by email at


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