Protecting Ocean Ecosystems

Hey Maine- this fluke is for you!

North Atlantic right whales are in danger of going extinct in our lifetime. Photo: Steve Meese/Shutterstock.

This blog was originally published by Whale and Dolphin Conservation. It is authored by Regina Asmutis-Silvia and is reposted here with permission.

In light of the deaths of six endangered right whales in Canada, Maine’s Congressional Delegation and its Governor are calling for a REDUCTION in protections for right whales in US waters. Keep in mind that what they are now opposing was developed and agreed to by representatives of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and Maine’s Department of Marine Resources this past April during the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team Meeting.

Now citing faulty data, they claim that Maine’s fisheries are not responsible for entanglements of right whales and therefore their fishery should not be subjected to reducing the number of buoy lines, the part of the gear most likely to entangle a large whale.

While it is true that, according to NOAA, the origin of most entangling gear is unknown, it’s also true that Maine’s congressional delegation intervened in efforts to reduce entanglement risk to large whales in 2008. They successfully demanded that 71% of all Maine waters be exempted from risk reduction measures, including gear marking.

Come on Maine, refusing to mark your gear doesn’t mean you didn’t entangle whales now does it?  Just ask the minke whales who have been anchored in your gear over the past few years.

You claim that right whales are not at risk in your waters but I’m pretty sure this is your coast with many right whale sightings….

Right whale sightings off Maine’s coast from January 1, 2010 to today (NOAA).

You boast about having the largest lobster fishery in the entire US, but that also means you have the most rope in the water.  Last time I checked, risk was defined as whales swimming through areas of fixed fishing gear.

On the other hand, Massachusetts lobster fishers not only mark their gear, but have no areas exempted from the use of sinking groundline and are subjected to a three month closure from fishing to protect right whales who come into Cape Cod Bay each spring.  And somehow they haven’t gone out of business.  In fact, Massachusetts lobster fishers have also been proactive in developing gear modifications to reduce the severity of entanglements and have been willing to test “ropeless” gear.

Keep in mind, the American lobster (Homarus americanus) is not unique to Maine waters and is the same species fished and sold in Massachusetts.  In fact, I believe that Massachusetts lobster tastes a bit sweeter as it doesn’t include the bitter seasoning of a State who now opposes the very same whale conservation measures it helped to develop.  For now, I’ll stick to buying my lobsters in Massachusetts.

Maine, you can DO better. You can BE better.


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