Right whale regulation meetings on hold in Maine
The Maine Department of Marine Resources (Maine DMR) has posted a notice indicating that its Lobster Zone Council meetings to discuss pending federal right whale regulations have been postponed indefinitely.
The meetings were intended to discuss the federal recommendations by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that Maine lobstermen reduce their vertical lines by 50 percent. The recommendation follows a string of North Atlantic right whale deaths via entanglement in fishing gear. In June of this year alone, six of the critically endangered whales – of which only around 400 remain – were discovered dead.
However, the NFMS recommendation has come under fire from government officials and representatives in the state, including the current governor, former governor, and all four members of U.S. Congress. They point to the lack of any evidence that it is Maine lobster gear that is causing any of the entanglements, and point to deaths that have occurred in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence as an argument against further regulation of the state's lobster fishery.
The Lobster Zone Councils had been scheduled to meet seven times in September, one for each of the seven zones in the state. According to a release by the Maine DMR, the decision was made in order to “ensure that we develop a proposal for submission to the NMFS that reflects a thorough review of all data.”
“DMR will share an updated meeting schedule with industry when it becomes available. The department remains committed to meeting with industry members before any proposal is formally submitted to NMFS,” the release states.
DMR spokesperson Jeff Nichols told Maine Public that the department is still working on the NMFS proposal and that a plan is still being developed.
"The details of the plan aren't something that we're going to comment on because that is still a work in progress,” Nichols said. “As soon as we have a plan to present, like I said, to industry, we will do that."
Photo courtesy of NOAA