PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Rep Jared Golden, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 2nd District, on Tuesday asked federal officials to reconsider regulations meant to protect North Atlantic right whales. Maine lobstermen say the proposed changes would significantly harm their livelihoods.
Golden said in a release that he is “deeply troubled” by the manner the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team (TRT) plans to reduce right whale mortality by 60 percent to 80 percent, and by “the impact its actions may have on the future viability of our lobster fleet.”
The TRT is meeting this week in Providence, Rhode Island, with a group of approximately 60 fishermen, scientists and conservationists joining state and federal officials to discuss ways to further reduce serious injury and mortality of endangered North Atlantic right whales caused by trap/pot fishing gear.
They hope to agree on measures that would reduce serious injuries and deaths of right whales caused by fishing gear in U.S. waters from Maine to Florida to fewer than one whale per year, the level prescribed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to a release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I find it difficult to understand how a comprehensive strategy to protect an endangered species can be developed and agreed upon when the management tool relies on outdated inputs and was only made available days before the TRT meeting,” Golden said in a prepared statement.
Golden noted that Canadian fishermen are not required to abide by the same whale protection rules but did not elaborate on his criticism of the U.S. risk assessment tools.
Later Tuesday, the other members of Maine’s congressional delegation — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree — said that they intend to meet with leaders of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and state marine resources officials to discuss ways to balance protection of the endangered whales with industry needs. They echoed Golden’s concerns about the speed with which the new rules to protect the whales were being considered.