New rules to protect endangered whales have lobstermen shaking in their waders

The North Atlantic right whale is going extinct, and the laws put in place to protect them could do the same to lobstermen in Maine.


October 2, 2019

The North Atlantic right whale is at risk of going extinct. There are only about 400 left, and the population is declining rapidly because they’re getting hit by ships and entangled in fishing gear.

New federal rules aim to protect whales by cutting the number of fishing lines in the water, but the WSJ reports that Maine lobstermen are… susfishious.

Lobstermen don’t want to go extinct either

During their busy season, Maine lobstermen throw down more than 800k lines from buoys to ocean-floor traps. The federal rules could require Maine to pull half of these lines from the water.

The lobster industry supports thousands of jobs in Maine and funnels $1.5B into the state’s economy. According to Maine Governor Janet Mills, almost every job in many rural coastal communities involves lobster. 

Lobster people are also arguing that the rules will put too heavy a burden on Maine, considering the majority of recent whale deaths have been in Canada.

Scientists say we need to take drastic measures

The North Atlantic right whale can’t even sustain one death per year, yet 30 have been found dead since June 2017. A recent study analyzing causes of death from 2003-2018 found that 22 of the 70 cases died due to entanglement.

Researchers believe more whales may be cruising to Canada because warming seas have decreased their food supply. Although the Canadian waters have been less hospitable recently, scientists warn against thinking this means Maine is in the clear.

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