The state Department of Marine Resources is canceling a series of meetings with the lobster industry next week to talk about right whale protections, saying it has nothing new to present to lobstermen until federal officials clearly identify a risk reduction target.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is tasked with protecting right whales from entanglement in lobster fishing gear, is introducing new scientific methodologies and analyses that could cause large-scale changes to the lobster industry, Commissioner Patrick Keliher said.

“This is very alarming given the short timeline,” Keliher said Thursday.

The right whale issue is coming to a head this month. On April 23, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration task force will discuss how to protect the endangered right whale from fishing gear. On April 29, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will debate how to reduce vertical fishing lines.

The Maine meetings were meant to get fishermen’s reaction to proposals that would be discussed there. Instead, Keliher said Maine will attend the meetings, gather information about the risk reduction target and possible options and reschedule the industry meetings before final federal actions are taken.

“Maine is willing to engage with NMFS to find solutions that protect North Atlantic right whales, but not in ways that would cause serious economic harm to the industry and the state,” Keliher said.



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