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Activist Seeks Preliminary Injunction To Halt Lobster Fishing In Maine

New England Aquarium

There are new developments Friday in the legal battle over whether rope used by Maine lobstermen poses a deadly threat of entanglement to endangered North Atlantic right whales. An activist who has won past decisions to protect the whales filed a motion in Bangor federal court, seeking a preliminary injunction to halt lobster fishing in Maine.

Richard Strahan's case is similar to one he brought in Massachusetts, where a federal judge ruled recently that the lobster fishery there violates the Endangered Species Act. Strahan says state governments and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have deliberately ignored the law.

"That's the evil behind the curtain. That NOAA and these states have agreed that nobody's going to enforce the Endangered Species Act, not only against individual fishermen, but these state agencies either."

In another case, a coalition of conservation groups late Friday filed their proposals for protecting the right whales. That’s after a judge’s finding that the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to stall the whales’ slide toward extinction. The Conservation Law Foundation and others say the judge should immediately bar use of vertical rope in an area off Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard where whales have been congregating in recent years. And they say that new, comprehensive protection rules must be in place by February.

The government and other parties to that case, such as the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, have until next month to respond.

State and industry officials had no immediate comment.

Updated 8:47 a.m. May 16, 2020

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.