The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will convene a take reduction team (TRT) to address the incidental mortality and serious injury of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and white sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus) incidental to the Mid-Atlantic mid-water trawl fishery, as well as other trawl fisheries. Under section 118 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Atlantic Trawl Gear TRT is responsible for developing a take reduction plan (TRP) to reduce mortality and serious injury of pilot whales, common dolphins, and white sided dolphins in the Atlantic trawl gear fishery. The immediate goal of the TRP is to reduce, within six months of implementation, the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals to levels less than the stock’s Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level. The long term goal is to reduce within five years of implementation, the mortality and serious injury of marine mammals to insignificant levels approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate.
In April 2003, a settlement agreement was signed between the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and NMFS requiring the agency to convene a TRT to address takes of pilot whales and common dolphins in the Atlantic Squid, Mackerel, and Butterfish fisheries (currently known as the Mid-Atlantic mid-water trawl fishery) by September 30, 2006. The settlement agreement also required that NMFS conduct abundance surveys and observer programs for the fishery in order to obtain at least two successive years of updated marine mammal injury and mortality estimates for common dolphins and pilot whales prior to convening the take reduction team. As mandated by the settlement agreement, NMFS has undertaken stock assessment surveys for pilot whales and common dolphins, as well as white-sided dolphins.