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Feds Schedule Hearings On Controversial Right Whale Rules

Peter Duley
/
NEFSC/NOAA
Four North Atlantic right whales.

Federal regulators are scheduling a series of public hearings on proposed new fishing-gear rules that aim to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale from potentially deadly entanglements.

The controversial rules could force Maine lobstermen to remove from the water half the rope they use to haul their traps, and to use rope that would break more easily. Conservationists say the rules are needed to avert the whale's potential extinction.

Colleen Coogan coordinates whale-protection efforts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's North Atlantic fisheries bureau. She says NOAA wants to know how the new rules would affect marine ecosystems and animals, including whales. But she says officials are also looking for fishermen's views on how their operations and businesses might be affected by specific gear changes.

"So, for instance, if we're asking them to increase their gear marking, maybe putting a large three-foot-long mark on the top two fathoms of their buoy line: would that be something they do at the dock and bring out with them? Is that something they'd do while at sea? How hard would that be to do, how much time it would take, what do they think the cost to them would be?" Coogan says.

The first "scoping" meeting in Maine is scheduled for the evening of Monday, August 12, at the University of Maine at Machias, with subsequent meetings that week in Ellsworth, Waldoboro and Portland.  

You can find the complete notice of the meetings here.

Updated 4:39 p.m. July 31, 2019

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.