Federal fishery regulators are taking back their claim that newer lobster fishing gear is harmful to North Atlantic right whales.
Right whales are one of the most endangered of all the large whales, with only 450 remaining in the wild. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently published a report on the whales’ mortality.
They found a 2015 rule requiring less traps with stronger fishing line is making entanglements of right whales worse. However, the agency said that statement is actually not based on science.
Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said the report is still flawed.
“The perception, which is very important in this day and age, is that (entanglements are) because of the Maine lobster fishery, because of how they focused on Maine and how they misunderstood the data,” she said.
McCarron said the report doesn’t recognize the role other regions also play in the entanglement problem, such as Canada where federal regulators have confirmed most of the entanglements in 2017.
McCarron added, the report is damaging to the lobster fishery.
"When you have an agency who’s been managing you for over 20 years fundamentally not understanding your fishery, publishing a technical memo that, quite frankly, felt more like an opinion piece, it really erodes the base of trust that we need to move forward with the management measures," McCarron said.
NOAA Fisheries said the memo was never intended to be a "prescription" to fix the problem, just a starting point to developing actions that could be taken.
The Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team will be meeting the rest of this week in Providence to plan how to reduce the whale’s mortality.