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 Activists and fishermen begin whale action

Thursday 23 September 2004

whaleA collaboration between an animal welfare group and fishermen in Massachusetts, launched this week, aims to reduce the threat posed out-dated fishing gear to the endangered North Atlantic right whale, in a pilot scheme that could be replicated worldwide if it proves successful.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare project will remove up to 3,250 miles and 220 tons of lobster rope off the coast of Massachusetts and replace it with whale-safe lobster gear. Nearly three quarters of the North Atlantic right whale population shows scarring or other signs of injury from fishing gear and nearly one dozen North Atlantic right whales have been entangled over the past two years.

“Many of the whale entanglements are fatal and, in the case of the North Atlantic right whale, every single death threatens the survival of the entire species,” said Fred O’Regan, president of IFAW. “North Atlantic right whales are literally on the verge of extinction and two of the most critically important habitats on the east coast are right here off of Massachusetts.”

“Innovative projects such as this one are a model for fisheries work,” added Paul Diodati, director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. “Only by balancing the concerns of environmentalists and fishermen are we able to protect our valuable natural resources.”

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