Feds Outline Proposed Gear Rules In Online Meeting With Lobstermen

Jan 20, 2021

Federal regulators last night detailed proposed new rules for Maine lobstermen and other commercial fishermen whose gear and trap rope poses a risk to endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Officials at the Greater Atlantic Fisheries Office are proposing to reduce the risk of damaging and deadly entanglements by more than 60 percent. Possible measures include a use of weakened ropes that whales can break through, seasonal area closures and changes in the minimum number of traps required per line.

Several industry stakeholders participating in the online meeting criticized estimates of costs to the industry, and that federal analysis doesn’t account for all the Maine-based boats that harvest in one potential closure area about 20 miles off the state’s coast.

Federal officials say they are open to the critique. But they also say they’re hampered by a lack of data from Maine, which only recently moved to provide more complete data about where lobster boats are traveling and landing their catch.

Some conservationists, meanwhile, say the proposed rules may not be nimble enough to keep up with changes in the whales’ behavior.

Another informational meeting will be held Wednesday night, and there will be more opportunities for public comment in February. Federal officials now say a final rule might not go into effect until early next year.