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Courts and Crime

New Hampshire Activist Files Suit To End Use Of Vertical Ropes In Maine's Lobster Fisheries

Pat Wellenbach

A New Hampshire activist is suing the federal government and the state of Maine in an effort to end the use of vertical ropes in the state's lobster fishery.

Richard "Max" Strahan says that is the quickest way to protect multiple marine species.

Strahan, who heads a group called Whale Safe USA, filed the suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service and Maine's Department of Marine Resources in federal district court in Bangor on Thursday.

"The thing that the United States government is actually managing the whale into extinction — they want it to go extinct," says Strahan.

The lawsuit calls for a temporary restraining order that would end the practice of using vertical buoy ropes to haul traps. Strahan says that would force lobstermen to innovate other hauling methods that do not pose a risk of entangling endangered North Atlantic right whales and other marine species, such as green sea turtles.

"It's already too late for the right whales, they're already gone,” he says. “And if you want to do something for them you have to do something serious. And NMFS isn't even interested in that."

Strahan has filed a related lawsuit in Massachusetts, and he dismisses efforts by other environmental groups to force less radical gear changes he says won't succeed.

The federal government, meanwhile, has asked a judge to put a hold on a suit brought by several of those groups, pending the outcome of a new rule-making process that could force Maine's lobstermen to remove half of their rope from the water.