Maine lobster industry awaits rules to protect right whales
Hunted to extinction by whalers over a century ago, latest estimates indicate that only around 400 right whales remain in the North Atlantic.
KENNEBUNK, Maine – Lobster fishermen in Maine are eagerly awaiting to learn exactly what they will need to change to meet new federal requirements to protect the endangered right whale. Federal agency NOAA Fisheries released its final biological opinion on the threat to right whales on Thursday, saying New England fishermen need to make major changes so whales do not get tangled in fishing gear. fish and do not die.
Fishermen have been worried and have been waiting for federal guidelines for more than two years. Some of their fears were confirmed by the latest NOAA report, but are still waiting to obtain the necessary details.
The big target for protecting whales is called harm reduction, primarily by reducing the number of vertical ropes in the water that connect the traps to the buoy.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of NOAA Fisheries, said these ropes pose a great risk of entangling right whales, so they must be immediately reduced by 60%. How it should be is one of the details fishermen are waiting to learn, but previous NMFS documents have suggested that a primary method should require longer trawls, which means putting a lot more traps on each. line, in addition to using sections of weaker rope that can break away if caught by a whale.
Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said Maine was unfairly penalized for whale deaths that actually occur in Canada and those caused by whales struck by ships at sea. She said although lobsters will have to follow the rules, the industry will continue to press the NMFS to improve its data and create more equitable regulations.
“We have to get back to service, we have to correct the science, and we have to have some responsibility on the part of the US ship industry and Canada to solve their part of this problem,” McCarron said.
The industry expects more detailed rules later this year from the federal government. Whether fishermen need to make changes this year, in the middle of the fishing season, or whether they will be allowed to wait until next year, is still unclear.