New England lobster fishery worried about upcoming whale protections – CBS Boston
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Profitable lobster fishing in the United States will soon face new rules designed to protect an endangered whale species, and this could require major changes for people in the industry .
The federal government is working on new rules designed to reduce the risk to North Atlantic right whales, which are only about 360. One of the threats whales face is the entanglement in the ropes that are occurring. connect to lobster and crab traps in the ocean.
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The new rules are expected to be released in late summer or early fall, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson said. Early indications show that the changes required by the rules could be significant.
Right whales were once abundant off the east coast, but were decimated by hunting during the days of commercial whaling. They have been listed as endangered since 1970, but the population remains small and endangered. Recent years have also resulted in high mortality and poor reproduction among whales.
They are also vulnerable to collisions with ships and face the looming threat of warming oceans. NOAA Acting Assistant Fisheries Officer Paul Doremus said in June that the United States and Canada, which also fish lobsters, must “undertake and maintain additional efforts to reduce mortality and serious injury. right whales ”.
The rules will focus on reducing the number of vertical ropes in the water, and they are also expected to change restricted areas of the ocean, the government said. A conservation framework released by the federal government in May says the first phase of the rules will be designed to reduce the risk to whales by 60%.
Subsequent phases, which could come into effect by 2030, call for an almost complete reduction in risk to animals. Industry members have said this could make it more difficult to get lobsters to consumers.
The lobster industry is ready to do its part to conserve whales, but almost complete risk reduction would require a complete overhaul of the fishery, said Patrice McCarron, executive director of Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
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“The fishery as we know it cannot exist, absolutely not,” said McCarron. “We cannot solve this whole problem if whales die in Canada or are struck by ships. Everyone is very anxious to know what the rules really say.
The new US whale rules will not come into effect immediately after publication, and it is too early to say when they will take effect, said Allison Ferreira, spokesperson for NOAA. She said the federal government will undertake a major outreach effort to help fishermen comply when the rules become available.
“I think we’ll take a multi-pronged approach – sending out materials, websites, in-person meetings, and instructional videos – to help them understand the different components, as the different components will apply to different fishermen.” , she said.
The rules come at a time when the lobster industry, based primarily in Maine but also active elsewhere in New England and New York, is enjoying great success despite many challenges. The Maine lobster has been worth more than $ 400 million on the docks for seven consecutive years after never approaching that number in its history, according to state records dating back to the 1880s.
Lobster is also popular right now with consumers, who pay above average prices for them this summer.
The fishery has weathered high bait prices, the coronavirus pandemic, economic turmoil with China and other hardships over the past five years and has managed to stay afloat. But the whale rules present a challenge that could make it harder to get lobsters to customers, said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association.
“When 700 fishermen are not on the water, there is less lobster,” Casoni said.
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