The Jan. 28 letter about steps Maine has taken to protect right whales (“Letter to the editor: Writer overlooks steps Maine lobstermen, delegation have taken to protect right whales”) is mistaken. Congress might have made a foolish move passing the omnibus rider.

Maine lobstermen can be proud that they have built a sustainable fishery and lobster population. It is true that Maine lobstermen have implemented all right whale protective rules so far. So has every other East Coast fishery. Maine, however, has been consistently reluctant to implement these rules for the past two decades, fighting every proposed rule until mandated to apply it.

Maine lobstermen claim they are being unfairly targeted regarding whale entanglements. Recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data shows that 84 large whales were found entangled on the East Coast in the last three years. Eleven were traced back to a specific fishery. Seven were documented entangled in Maine purple-marked lobster gear on them. Three of those whales were humpbacks and four were minkes. Two minkes died. Three large whales had Massachusetts gear on them, and one had Canadian gear on it. The majority of the entanglements were from Maine lobster gear, which has the most fixed fishing gear on the East Coast.

Maine lobstermen should stop accidentally entangling all whales, not just right whales.

Future accidents can be prevented. The new omnibus law allocates money to make on-demand gear a reality and provide it to lobstermen free of charge. On-demand fishing should be implemented immediately before any more whales are accidentally entangled and killed in Maine lobster gear. Do not wait six years.

Bill McWeeny
Maine Coalition for North Atlantic Right Whales

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