The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is awarding more than $700,000 to Maine’s Department of Marine Resources to study whether lobstermen’s gear poses a mortal threat to the endangered right whale.
There are about 450 right whales left on the planet, and some scientists say entanglement in lobster-trapping gear is making their extinction more likely. But many Maine lobstermen are skeptical and are pushing back against calls for new regulations on their ropes and buoys.
Now, DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols says the state will lead a NOAA-funded project to get better real-world data.
“So that regulators will be able to quantify where the gear is, how much is in the water, what the configuration of gear is and also how strong does it need to be in order to have the best conservation benefit for whales and also to allow the industry to continue to harvest safely,” he says.
Nichols says boats from Maine down to Connecticut will participate in the multiyear study.