Right Whale mother and calf. NOAA Fisheries

Maine DMR’s answer to whale rules focus offshore

As the battle over how best to protect endangered northern right whales continues to escalate, the Department of Marine Resources is proposing a new set of requirements for lobster gear that the department believes will help reduce injury to the whales without imposing severe, and some say dangerous, restrictions on fishermen.

Last week, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher announced that after “rigorous scientific analysis,” the department had come up with a new draft plan to address “both the risk to right whales and concerns of fishermen” that is “in keeping with the real risk the Maine fishery presents.”

Last March, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that the risk of injuries to right whales in the Gulf of Maine had to be reduced by at least 60 percent.

To meet that goal, a group of fishermen, scientists and conservation group representatives known as the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team recommended that NMFS require Maine lobstermen to reduce the number of vertical lines used to connect their traps to the surface marker buoys by 50 percent.

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