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Maine Lobstermen's Association Sues Feds Over Right Whale Protection Plan

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.

The Maine Lobstermen's Association has filed suit against the federal government over its plan to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from becoming entangled in lobster gear.

MLA executive director Patrice McCarron says a 10-year plan issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service this summer should be revised to reflect actions the industry has already taken.

"We are literally on a course to have our fishery erased, eliminated in ten years, because the plan's not based upon the science. And the first phase of the plan has weaknesses, too, not based upon the best available science," she says.

Beginning Oct. 17, more than 950 square miles of fishing grounds about 30 miles off Maine's coast will be closed to traditional lobster fishing. Other measures will go into effect in the spring.

In an email, a lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation, one of several groups challenging the new federal regulations rules as inadequate to protect the whales from extinction, said she had not read the MLA complaint yet. But Erica Fuller adds that fishermen should be recognized for work they have already done to help protect the species.

"But there is more work to do," she wrote. "The fishing industry and right whales can co-exist but the parties need to work together in good faith to develop meaningful solutions... Fishery managers have not done enough to stem the tide of recent deaths."

There are few than 370 of the animals believed to be alive on the planet.

Also on Monday, Gov. Janet Mills announced that her administration had been granted intervenor status to the original lawsuit brought by the conservation groups.

Updated: September 27, 2021 at 5:07 PM EDT
This story was updated with additional reaction.
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.