I consider myself an environmentalist, an identity I share with many lobstermen on the coast of Maine. While many may think lobstering goes hand in hand with disregard for the environment, it is their reliance on and relationship with the ocean that gives many lobstermen a deep appreciation and respect for this environment.

Yet despite this, the Maine lobstering community, along with their livelihood and culture, have been painted as a threat to the environment, and most recently, to the endangered North Atlantic right whales.

New regulations, issued Tuesday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), intend to reduce the risk to right whales, which the Maine lobster industry has been unfairly blamed for. In fact, there have been no documented deaths and entanglements attributed to the Maine lobster industry since 2004, which clearly demonstrates how little, if any, good these regulations will do for the protection of the whales. However, what they will do is damage the livelihoods and cultural identities of the Maine lobstering community.

If they truly seek to protect the North Atlantic right whales, NOAA and environmental organizations will focus their energy on combating the real threats to whale populations such as ship strikes. In addition, decision-makers should center the voices of lobstermen whose values so often align with those of environmentalists and whose experiential knowledge is invaluable. I’m sure the whales will thank them.

Madeleine DesFosses

Related Headlines

filed under: