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Business and Economy

Maine Lobstermen's Association Asks For Public Donations To Help 'Save' The Industry

In this July 2006 file photo, lobsterman Paul Prosser, of Cundy's Harbor, Maine, heads out to sea near Rogue Island to set his traps.

The Maine Lobstermen's Association is calling for a half-million dollars in public donations to help it "save" the state's lobster industry from potential extinction.

The MLA says the money would go to its legal defense of the fishery in a federal court case brought by conservationists who want better protections of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The whales can be injured or killed by entanglement with rope used to tend trap-pot gear, such as lobster traps. But the MLA's Executive Director Patrice McCarron says there is no proof that the whales are actually interacting with traps set by the Maine fleet.

"If the Maine lobster fishery is shut down in an endangered species violation, I think it would be a monumental injustice and a monumental misread of the actual data that we have on what is causing right whale serious injury and mortality, and we are not going to sit by and let that happen."

Recent court rulings in three separate cases have sided with conservationists, though, finding that the federal and state governments have violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing some Northeast fisheries, including lobster, to continue. A fourth lawsuit that specifically targets Maine's lobster fishery is pending.