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Janet Mills Says Federal Right Whale Plan Would Be 'Devastating' To Maine's Lobster Industry

North Atlantic right whale breaching in Cape Cod Bay, May 2009.
Regina Asmutis-Silvia/WDC
North Atlantic right whale breaching in Cape Cod Bay, May 2009.

Gov. Janet Mills is taking aim at a draft federal report on endangered North Atlantic right whales she says could force a total reinvention of the state’s lobster fishery.

Mills says the so-called draft Biological Opinion outlines a 10-year goal of reducing risks that whales may be harmed by fishing gear or ship strikes by 98% — with the brunt of the burden to be carried by Maine lobstermen.

“What concerns me most is the lack of data, lack of science, lack of evidence that any of the deaths of right whales or reduced calving of right whales is attributable to anything that the lobstermen in the Gulf of Maine have done or not done,” she says.

There are roughly 360 of the whales estimated to be alive on the planet, and conservationists have been pushing the federal government to reexamine their status. And court actions are forcing the federal government to propose new regulations for fishing gear that can entangle the animals.

Federal officials are holding online public hearings on the proposed new rules Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.