Tags: maine | lobster fishermen | right whale | regulations

Finding Consensus on Whale Protections Tough Call in Maine

a lobster on a plate
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 13 May 2019 01:49 PM

Federal regulators have told Maine and other lobstering states to find a way to cut the number of surface-to-seabed fishing lines by 50% to prevent injury or death to endangered right whales, the Portland Press Herald reports.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is aiming to protect right whales that pass through the Gulf of Maine, whose numbers have dropped to 400 in recent years. But finding solutions will be a challenge in a $485-million industry that employs roughly 4,500 people in the state.

One problem is the diverse means fishermen employ in fishing for lobster — from one trap to many connected by a network of trawl lines.

“There is too much variance along our coast from west to east, and inshore to offshore, to expect that one option will work best for 4,000-plus independent-minded commercial fishers,” said Josh Miller, a third generation lobsterman who is chairman of the Maine Lobster Advisory Council. “A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.”

Captains of smaller operations might lean toward lowering the number of traps, while larger operations depend on being able to fish with hundreds of traps, due to operating costs. Finding common ground may not be easy, say some in the industry.

“There are sound business decisions driving each line of thinking and each has its place,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, in the May edition of their industry newsletter Landings. “The task for our industry is to listen and understand each other’s perspective rather than dismissing any ideas out of hand.”

Industry and state regulators claim there is no data proving practices by Maine’s lobster fishermen are to blame for the decline in the right whale population, and no right whale death has been linked to Maine gear.

State Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher said he will be reaching out to lobster fishermen in June to develop a plan to present to the federal regulators, and public meetings are expected to be scheduled at ports throughout the coast over the summer.

“The devil will be in the details,” Keliher said.

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Federal regulators have told Maine and other lobstering states to find a way to cut the number of surface-to-seabed fishing lines by 50% to prevent injury or death to endangered right whales, the Portland Press Herald reports. The National Marine Fisheries Service is aiming...
maine, lobster fishermen, right whale, regulations
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2019-49-13
Monday, 13 May 2019 01:49 PM
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