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Environment and Outdoors

Conservation groups, federal government appeal recent court decision halting a seasonal lobstering ban

Maine Daily Life
Robert F. Bukaty
A lobsterman tosses a buoy overboard while setting his traps in Portland harbor, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Portland, Maine. Lobster prices have been higher than average as the industry rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government and conservation groups are appealing a recent court decision that halted imposition of a seasonal ban on lobster trap rope in 1,000 square miles of fishing grounds off Maine. The restrictions are intended to reduce the risk that endangered North Atlantic right whales will be injured or killed by entanglement with fishing gear.

Earlier this month a U.S. district court judge granted a temporary injunction against the restrictions, after the Maine Lobstering Union and others filed suit claiming that the government’s risk assessments were flawed. In a statement Monday night, a lawyer for the conservation law foundation, Erica Fuller, pointed to data just released Monday showing that the whales’ population dropped by 8% last year. Area closures, she says, are the only tool proven to reduce the risk posed by trap-rope.