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New Enforcement Patrols Begin in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
MAY 8, 2001

contact: Anne Smrcina, 781-545-8026, ext. 204

SCITUATE, Mass. -- The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary will receive added protection this summer as a joint federal-state program begins regular law enforcement patrols starting Friday, May 11th.

For the first time, Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) patrol boats will provide a visible presence in the Sanctuary, particularly on busy weekend days when commercial and recreational boats jockey for position around local whales. MEP officers are cross-deputized to work in federal waters, and can enforce federal environmental regulations, particularly ones to protect endangered marine mammals and other Sanctuary resources.

This cooperative effort between the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and the NOAA Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement will educate the boating public while documenting Sanctuary uses and provide a regular marine "cop on the beat."

"With the growth of whale watching and a steady increase in boat traffic, the Sanctuary has become an oftentimes busy marine crossroads," notes Sanctuary Superintendent Dr. Craig MacDonald. "Unfortunately, many boaters are unaware of the established guidelines for safe boating around whales. This program seeks to both bring important education and information to the public and put officers on the water where they can investigate potential violations of law."

"The Massachusetts Environmental Police has been an active force in marine resource protection over the years," says MEP Director Richard Murray. "We are pleased to to be part of this interagency cooperative effort and to field trained officers in support of Sanctuary enforcement."

Sanctuary patrols depart from various Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay harbors from the beginning of May through Oct. MEP officers will offer education materials to boaters in the Sanctuary, collect data on vessel traffic, and document violations of federal marine environmental regulations.

"This is an example of state and federal conservation agencies working together towards a common goal," notes Dick Livingston, Special Agent in Charge of NOAA Fisheries Northeast Enforcement Division. The program builds upon a joint enforcement plan developed by the Sanctuary and the NOAA Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement. Under this agreement, a NOAA Special Agent is assigned to the Sanctuary to coordinate law enforcement activities.

"We see our major thrust in Year One to be in the area of public outreach and education," said MacDonald. "Part of the program will be an effort to gather better information about Sanctuary traffic. We have an 842-square-mile Sanctuary (almost the size of Rhode Island) and a scarcity of data about the level of usage of this vast tract of open water," he added.

The Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of 13 sites in the National Marine Sanctuary System. This historically important fishing ground and prime whalewatching site was designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. The Sanctuary is located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay between Cape Ann and Cape Cod; its headquarters office is located in Scituate, Mass.

 

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