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ME - Evidence Shows Maine Lobster Gear Has Not Contributed to Decline in Right Whale Population

In today’s world, it is hard to discern truth from opinion, or fact from calculated lies. We rely on the press helping us navigate this. The fact is that in 2020 a very encouraging uptick in right whale births was observed with at least 14 newborns reported.

The fact is also that no documented right whale death has ever been attributed to Maine lobstermen. There has only been one known entanglement in the past 20 years (2012). That whale was disentangled and set free.

The loss of Right whales in the last four years is indeed tragic. After all, the population had grown from an estimated 264 to 481 in an incredibly short time period. From 1990 to 2011, we saw the right whale population rebound and reproduce at rates that pointed to recovery.

No one predicted the movement of the copepods that they depend on for their food source. This scarcity of food and the journey to find it undoubtedly caused excess stress, and contributed heavily to years of slow birth rates.

The new food source they found was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, far from the protective regulations that Maine fishermen have adopted. Everyone knows the results.

The combination of ship strikes and snow crab gear entanglement was catastrophic, but had nothing to do with Maine lobster gear. The “guilt by association” assumption by environmental groups and NOAA/NMFS is unwarranted and unacceptable. All gear does not pose the same risk.

I’ve been fishing for 44 years off Mount Desert Rock, approaching 60,000 hours of sea time and have yet to see a right whale. No one cares more about Gulf of Maine and all its creatures than fishermen whose livelihoods depend on a thriving ocean. The lobster industry is not only an integral part of Maine’s coastal culture, it supports tens of thousands of people, many hundreds of related businesses including tourism, with an estimated contribution of at least $2 billion on the Maine economy.  

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