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Environment and Outdoors

With New Whale-Protection Rules For Lobster Gear Pending, Feds Turn Attention To Other Fisheries

right whale
Right Whale Research
/
Center for Coastal Studies Via Associated Press

Maine's lobster industry and conservation groups are anxiously waiting for a new federal order to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from entanglement with lobstermen's gear. Final rules, which could include seasonal closures of some fishing zones, are expected as soon as this month.

Now regulators are turning attention to risks that other types of Atlantic fishing boats pose for the whales.

Ben Martens of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association says gillnet gear used to catch species such as monkfish or flounder requires a very different analysis than lobster traps and rope, which typically stay in the water for weeks or months.

"Our fishermen will take the gillnets out with them. They stay with the gillnets and then they take them up and bring them back in when they are done fishing, right? It is hard to always understand and assess risk," Martens says.

Martens says that while there are relatively few ground-fishing boats left in Maine, models and rules created now could have long-lasting effects on efforts to help the industry's recovery. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration begins a series of informational webinars focusing on different regional fisheries starting next month.