Regulators to Consider Reducing Lobstermen’s Lines to Protect Right Whales

Regulators will consider removing up to 40 percent of the lines that link seabed lobster traps to buoys on the surface, taking the step in the hopes of protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale and avoiding federal restrictions on the lobster fishery.

Fishermen who serve on the American Lobster Management Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission say the action is required to prevent the federal government from declaring the lobster fishery a threat to North Atlantic right whales, whose population has dwindled to 411 because of changes in habitat, low calving rates, ship strikes and entanglement in fishing lines. If the federal government places a “jeopardy” finding on the species, it would likely trigger far more burdensome restrictions on Maine’s $1.4 billion a year lobster industry, board members said.

Better that fishery participants decide what concessions they can live with than leave it up to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they said.

“I don’t want NOAA making decisions on what this lobster fishery should look like in the future,” said Patrick Keliher, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources and a member of the American Lobster Management Board.