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Environment and Outdoors

Maine Delegation Asks Federal Regulators To Ease Proposed Right Whale Protections

Adam Daggett, John Daggett
Robert F. Bukaty
FILE - In this Aug. 24, 2019, file photo, Adam Daggett stands lookout on the bow as his father, John Daggett, pilots their boat at Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine. America's lobster fishing businesses could be subjected to electronic tracking requirements to try to protect rare whales and get a better idea of the population of the valuable crustaceans.

Maine's Congressional delegation is making an 11th-hour plea for federal regulators to ease some of the most onerous lobster fishing rules being proposed to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an Environmental Impact Statement last month that contemplates wide changes in lobster-fishing activities and gear aimed at reducing the risk of whales becoming entangled in trap-rope and gear.

In a joint letter to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, which oversees NOAA, all four members of the delegation ask regulators to make the rules less costly or dangerous for fishermen, while still protecting whales.

They request that fishermen be allowed to use different configurations of gear and rope to achieve the same conservation goals.

They also ask for flexibility around a requirement that lobstermen who fish in both state and federal waters keep two sets of gear, with different markings for each jurisdiction.

And they ask regulators to either shrink the size of fishing ground off Maine that are targeted for periodic closures, or only impose closures when whales are observed nearby. NOAA is expected to issue its final rules within weeks.