Stakeholders from 14 states are bearing down on recommendations for reducing entanglement risks for endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Maine’s delegation at Friday’s meeting in Providence, Rhode Island is proposing to reduce the vertical lines its lobster fleet puts into the water by 50 percent, as well as reduce rope strength and other measures.
Steuben lobsterman Michael Sargent is a member of the “Take Reduction Team” that is meeting today in Providence. He says the proposal would require him to take more than 10 miles of rope out of the water.
He says he is scared, but can live with it.
“It’s scary for me, but I know that’s something I can go back to my fishery and explain to my fishermen,” Sargent said. “This is something we can do. I think it’s a realistic number. It’s something a lot of fishermen understand. And I would be willing to go back and have that conversation.”
Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said it is a lot to ask.
“The measures developed here today are very likely to have potential severe economic impacts to the state of Maine’s lobster fishery,” Keliher said. “We’re in the northeast corner of the country, and much of our coastline is incredibly poor. There’s not a lot of other options. It’s much different than the rest of New England. We have to recognize that.”
Delegations from each state are proposing measures to meet an overall goal of reducing whale injury and mortality by 60 percent.
Next week, federal fisheries managers say they will initiate a rulemaking process which, informed by Friday’s meeting, will impose new regulations.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.