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Proposal Would Close Mass. Waters To Lobstering February-May As Right Whale Protection Measure

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
A lobsterman moves traps at the stern of a boat while fishing, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, off Portland, Maine.

Massachusetts regulators are proposing a periodic ban on lobster-fishing gear in state waters, to stem the decline of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The ban would last from February though May, when right whales in recent years have congregated off Cape Cod.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the Bay State was violating the Endangered Species Act by issuing lobster licenses and putting whales at risk of becoming entangled.

A similar lawsuit filed against Maine’s Department of Marine Resources was stayed last month, pending the outcome of another lawsuit that could lead to new federal rules for the entire Northeast lobster fishery. A judge in that case has told federal regulators new rules must be in place by May.

Scientists estimate that a quarter of the whales’ population have been lost over the last decade, with rope entanglements and ship-strikes the two leading causes of death.