Massachusetts union joins pursuit of Maine lobsters

Lobster fishers say they want to get involved because they believe federal actions like this could have a direct impact on their livelihoods.

WASHINGTON, DC, United States – Editor’s Note: The above video aired on December 9.

Maine lobster boats have a new ally in the fight against federal fishing regulations.

A judge granted a request from the Massachusetts Lobster Association join a legal action brought by the Maine Lobster Association, which calls into question the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ten-year right whale protection plan. The plan requires lobster vessels to make significant changes to prevent whales from tangling in their gear.

The group filed the petition in Washington DC District Court, seeking to join the lawsuit as a third party.

The Massachusetts lobster boats said they wanted to get involved because they believed federal actions like this could have a direct impact on their livelihoods.

A separate lawsuit filed by several Maine fishing unions claims that NOAA’s closure of a 1,000 square mile section of the Gulf of Maine during peak fishing season would harm the lobster industry for little gain. The area is now closed from October 18 to January 31 of each year.

Based on data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, lobster fishermen statewide made the most regular haul from July through October of last year. They grossed £ 20million in October at its peak, before numbers gradually declined until January.

DMR officials estimate the closure will have an impact of $ 2-4 million on fishermen alone.

RELATED: As Legal Battle Continues, Lobster Boats Fear A New Federal Shutdown Will Hurt The Industry In The Long Term

According to NOAA, there are fewer than 360 North Atlantic right whales left on the planet.

NOAA scientists have said the biggest threats to North Atlantic right whales are ship strikes and entanglements.

Experts say right whales swim in lines connecting the buoy to lobster traps on the ocean floor. The animal can slip through the traps and sometimes drag the machine for miles.

They say it causes serious injury and even death in many cases.

“Removing material from important whale habitat will save whales and help promote the recovery of this incredibly endangered species,” said Kristen Monsell, Center for Biological Diversity.

Most lobster boats opposed to the restrictions wonder how many right whales are even found off the coast of Maine.

NOAA said their tracking was not easy. However, maps showing aerial and marine sightings from 2013 to 2017 show many of them off the coasts of Massachusetts and New Brunswick, while fewer appear to be directly in the Gulf of Maine, where it is found. the closure area.

When asked how many tangles are occurring due to Maine-based lobster gear, Monsell said it was not clear.

“We don’t know where the vast majority of entanglements are occurring, and that’s for a number of different reasons,” she said. “What we do know is that these whales are dying. The species is disappearing, entanglements are the number one cause, and there are tons and tons of lines in these areas. ‘important habitat. “

A NOAA spokesperson turned down NEWS CENTER Maine’s request for an interview earlier this month, citing ongoing litigation.

However, they have issued written statements as to how they determined the closure area.

“Because we lack information on exactly where interactions occur, we use areas of high co-occurrence of right whales and fishing gear as a means of identifying areas with high potential for entanglement. We also consider gear type to determine the risk of a severe The Seasonal Restricted Areas we have recently implemented are based on hot spots, areas of current and historical high habitat use by right whales North Atlantic, high gear density and high configuration threat.

The LMA 1 Regulated Area was based on the Decision Support Tool including the Right Whale Density Model which predicts higher buoy line densities and concomitant risks with right whale densities causing a higher risk to right whales compared to other regions. LMA Regulated Area 1 is also a hotspot in the northeast lobster and Jonah crab trap / trap fishery, where the overlap between gear and whales is particularly high. “

A spokesperson for NOAA said its law enforcement office and the U.S. Coast Guard are responsible for enforcing the area’s closure. This will be done on and off the water, including with the help of monitoring technology.

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