Gillnet fishermen in New Hampshire will be using new electronic devices to prevent trapping harbor porpoise in their nets. Last year, the fishermen were penalized for problems with the devices known as pingers. And this year’s purchase marks the largest mammal catch prevention initiative of its kind.
Tied to stationary fishing nets, a pinger blasts a 10 kHz signal at 132 dB about every 10 seconds. It’s a white, seed shaped device about the length of a hand.
Now, New Hampshire gillnetters will not only have roughly twice as many than required by Federal law, but their pingers will also be equipped with a green LED light that blinks for the first 60 seconds in and out of the water.
Captain Tom Lyons is a gillnet fisherman in New Hampshire. He says the lights on his nets make all the difference.
“Now at least, with the light on, you know the battery’s working, you know the pinger’s putting out. And we feel if we double them, it shows that we’re trying to do everything possible to cut down the interactions and try to move forward and be able to fish.”
Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cracked down on New England gillnetters by closing 2,130 square miles of ocean between Gloucester, Mass and southern Maine for two months. NOAA’s penalty for catching too many harbor porpoise, and not maintaining the deterrent pingers caused outrage among gillnetters. Fishermen said testing the old pingers’ functionality was an expensive and inaccurate process. Gillnetters will have to attach the new ones by mid-September, says Lyons.
“September 15th is when the harbor porpoise start to migrate, so as of that time… we may put them on at the beginning of the month, but right now in the summer it’s not an issue.”
The New Hampshire Coastal Economic Development Corporation contributed $60,000 to the $210,000 purchase of 4,800 pingers. 1,400 of them will go to New Hampshire boats.