FILE - ME lobster traps 9-21-2017

Lobster traps are piled in the foreground Sept. 21, 2017, near the commercial wharf in Portland, Maine.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) has announced its intent to withdraw from an April agreement that aims to reduce risk to the right whale population.

The association determined the April 2019 Take Reduction Team (TRT) agreement contained flaws in its data, and has taken those concerns to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Fisheries division, which helps administer recreational and commercial fishing.

“Following the TRT meeting, MLA undertook a careful review of data available from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service), due to unresolved concerns with the timeliness and accuracy of information provided to TRT members,” MLA Executive Director Patrice McCarron wrote in a news release.

“[NMFS data shows] that the lobster fishery is the least significant cause of right whale serious injury or mortality, while ship strikes, gillnets and the Canadian snow crab fishery pose much greater risks.”

The NMFS is the federal regulator of the industry.

“The MLA cannot responsibly recommend its members undertake changes in fishing practices when whales may continue to become entangled in fishing gear, such as gillnets, which are not included in the current rulemaking,” the release states.

According to the MLA, the Canadian snow crab fishery has more responsibility for serious injury and mortality to the right whale, as much as 31 percent. Gillnet and netting gear account for another 13 percent. Unknown trap/pot gear comprises 4 percent, while U.S. trap/pot gear also is 4 percent. U.S. and Canadian vessel accidents make up the remaining 48 percent.

“Maine stands ready to identify measures that address the risk posed by our fishery,” the release states. “In order to do this, NMFS must re-examine the 60 [percent] risk reduction target to allocate the U.S. risk to all fisheries involved and not focus only on lobster. The rules proposed are misaligned and too narrow in scope to effectively protect right whales.”