Feds Seeking Potentially 'Daunting' New Protections For Right Whales

Apr 7, 2019

Amid uncertainty around new rules that would try to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, Maine's top fisheries regulator is canceling meetings he'd planned for next week with lobster harvesters around the state.

Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher says that federal regulators in the last two weeks have raised the possibility of closing large areas of the Gulf of Maine to lobster fishermen when whales might be passing through. And he says the feds also could require use of so-called “rope-less gear” technology in certain areas to reduce the risk of whale entanglements — technology that Keliher says is at least five years away from being effective.

"There's a lot of things kind of being thrown at the wall to see what sticks right now, and I'm afraid that the next thing to be thrown at us is the kitchen sink," Keliher says.

Keliher says he will try to meet with industry members in early May, after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration clarifies what regulations it wants to impose.

In an email released this afternoon, federal regulators endorsed what they acknowledged was a "daunting" target of reducing right whale mortalities in the United States by 60 to 80 percent.

Updated 4:33 p.m. April 5, 2019