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Environment and Outdoors

Federal Assessment: Commercial Fishing Practices Must Change To Prevent North Atlantic Right Whale Extinction

North Atlantic right whales are at risk of extinction because they often become ensnared in ropes used to guide lobster traps along the Northeastern U.S. and Canadian coastline.
North Atlantic right whales are at risk of extinction because they often become ensnared in ropes used to guide lobster traps along the Northeastern U.S. and Canadian coastline.

The federal government Thursday issued a scientific assessment finding that commercial fishing practices, including those used in lobstering, must change in order to prevent the extinction of North Atlantic right whales. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s assessment concludes that risks to right whales, including entanglement in vertical fishing lines, must be reduced by 98% by 2031.

"That would be absolutely devastating for the Maine fishery," says Patrice McCarron, the executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association. "The fishery as we know it will no longer exist and the opportunity for our children to remain in the fishery will probably disappear."

The lobster industry has said its willing to make needed changes to protect the whales, but doesn't believe that lobster gear is to blame for whale deaths.

North Atlantic right whales are one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, with fewer than 400 remaining.