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A court has given the feds 2 more years to complete right whale protections opposed by lobstermen

Norman Haynes
Robert F. Bukaty
In this Oct. 19, 2012 file photo lobsterman Norman Haynes loads traps onto a trailer at sunrise in Falmouth, Maine.

A district court judge in Washington D.C. has granted a two-year extension for the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a new rule aimed at reducing right whale deaths from entanglements in lobster gear.

In its decision Thursday, the court says the extension will allow all stakeholders to work collaboratively to ensure the survival of both the right whale and the lobster industry.

One of those stakeholders is the Center for Biological Diversity, where Kristen Monsell is the oceans legal director.

"This is great news," she said. "A new and improved rule will keep whales safer from deadly entanglements in fishing gear."

The Maine Lobstermen's Association says the decision offers some hope, but doesn't resolve major issues. Executive director Patrice McCarron says lobstermen are still mandated to achieve a 90% risk reduction to right whales in two years, which will cause significant harm to the fishery.

State Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher says his department will work with Maine fishermen to ensure they can comply with new rules and secure a "resilient future."