State fishery regulators are postponing a series of meetings that had been scheduled with Maine lobstermen over the next several weeks to prepare for potential new federal restrictions designed to protect endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.
The controversial rules could force Maine lobstermen to remove from the water half the rope they use to haul their traps, and to use rope that would break more easily.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills has directed the Department of Marine Resources to develop its own analysis of the risk Maine's lobster industry poses for the whales.
DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols says that work is ongoing, and the department's overall objective is still to develop a plan that achieves conservation benefits while minimizing the impact on industry.
"The details of the plan aren't something that we're going to comment on because that is still a work in progress," Nichols says, "and, as soon as we have a plan to present, like I said, to industry, we will do that."
Marine Resources officials say the commissioner wants to ensure that the proposal developed for submission to federal regulators reflects a thorough review of all data.