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Steaming Ahead

The discussions about what the new whale rules will be has been heating up this winter. In March, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) began talking with lobstermen in preparation for three public meetings on the whale rules to be held on April 8, 9 and 10. The issue is an extremely complex one involving the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act as the legal framework and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team and all of the East coast states as managers. Plus, there is a court case pending in Washington D.C. Given all this the bureaucratic confusion, lobstermen naturally want to cut to the chase. “If there are no recent confirmed right whale entanglements in Maine lobster gear, why do we need to do anything?” they wonder. “Who is standing up for us and telling the government that enough is enough?” The Maine Lobstermen’s Association is. The MLA is present at all of the whale meetings and you can be sure, we are not sitting there silently. At whale management meetings, we have already said “No” to ropeless fishing and to a mandate for 1,700 pound weak rope for everyone. At industry meetings, we are listening to lobstermen’s feedback on what will work for Maine. And the MLA is an intervener in the court case so that the Maine lobster fishery will have a voice if any decisions are made through the court. But even as we fight for Maine lobstermen to continue to fish, that does not mean that Maine will not have to do something. The Maine lobster fishery is not the smoking gun when it comes to whale entanglement. In fact, there is no smoking gun (other than Canadian snow crab gear). Unfortunately, there is no clear solution on how to ensure the continued survival of right whales.

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