U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo on Monday announced $3,483,190 in grants to support the adoption of innovative fishing gear in Rhode Island and across New England to reduce the risk of gear entanglement for the endangered North Atlantic right whales.
These grants, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will provide additional resources to aid lobster and other fixed-gear fishermen in developing and bringing new ropeless gear technology onto their boats.
Funding for the grant program, which was informed by the Right Whale Coexistence Act that Whitehouse and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced, was included in the bipartisan FY2023 government spending bill.
“Rhode Island’s fishermen are a vital component of our local economy. This federal funding will ensure that our fishermen have the tools and latest technology they need while helping to protect endangered right whales,” said Senator Reed.
“I’m pleased to announce this funding to support innovation in the fishing industry and help equip fishermen with the latest ropeless technology. Fewer ropes in the water will mean fewer entanglements for the endangered North Atlantic right whales,” said Senator Whitehouse, co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus.
“This federal funding will help Rhode Island’s fishing industry by making ropeless gear more affordable while also avoiding entanglements and protecting endangered species,” said Congressman Magaziner, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“The federal funding I am pleased to announce with my colleagues will bolster our conservation efforts, help us improve the fishing industry in our region, and reduce human impacts on North Atlantic right whales,” said Congressman Amo. “Ensuring the hardworking men and women in Rhode Island’s fishing industry have the latest equipment will benefit fishery operations by helping to reduce entanglements in fishing gear. Thanks to Senator Whitehouse’s leadership, our state will continue to be a shining example of how federal investments can improve our oceans and protect highly endangered species.”
“NOAA Fisheries and its partners are dedicated to pursuing innovative approaches to recover and conserve the endangered North Atlantic right whales through our Road to Recovery efforts,” said Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, Janet Coit. “This grant program and collaboration with NFWF will ensure funding can quickly support an array of projects and accelerate progress towards ropeless technologies to reduce entanglement in fishing gear.”
The grants were awarded through the New England Gear Innovation Fund, a partnership between NFWF and NOAA, with additional support from Shell USA. Grant recipients include Ropeless Systems Inc., Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, EdgeOne LLC, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. The projects supported by the grants will advance promising technologies that remove the need to rely upon vertical buoy and gear marking lines in the water. These grants also provide funding to ensure close coordination and partnership with fishermen to develop and refine technology that will be affordable, integrate seamlessly into fishery operations, and enable safe and efficient use.
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