Maine’s lobstermen say regulations set to take place this September to protect New England’s iconic right whales will severely impact their lobster harvest and cause them to lay off hundreds of workers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) blames entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes for the decline of the right whales.
Right whales are an endangered species. Only about 400 of them remain in the world. Two were found strangled in fishing gear in the North Atlantic in July. With so few remaining right whales, the death of more than one each year means that right whales will go extinct.
NOAA ordered Maine to craft a detailed plan to reduce the lobster industry’s threat to the whales by 60 percent. The lobstermen say the new regulations will cut the number of their buoy lines by half, resulting in a severe decline in the number of lobsters they will catch.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills said on Facebook that she questioned the science of the order.
“Maine lobster fishery is not the primary problem for the right whales,” she said.
The Maine congressional delegation has appealed to President Donald Trump, asking him to intervene and stop the damaging new rule.
Mills directed Pat Keliher, of the Department of Marine Resources, to evaluate the actual risk to the whales by the fisherman and come up with a new risk reduction target by the end of August.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, took to Facebook to plead with Trump to intervene.
“Maine lobstermen need your help to protect thousands of good American jobs,” Golden wrote. NOAA does not have the data to show that right whales travel through the Gulf of Maine where the lobstermen work, Golden said.
Maine has until September to submit its lobster industry right whale plan to the fisheries service.