Portland, Maine – Maine and the fishing community are appealing a federal judge’s decision that new rules intended to protect endangered whales must remain in place.
A judge earlier this month rejected a request from fishermen to prevent federal regulators from placing new restrictions on lobster hunting. The rules are meant to protect North Atlantic right whales, which number less than 340.
Maine Governor Janet Mills and the Maine Lobstermen Association said this week that they are appealing that decision. Lobstermen have long claimed that the new rules are based on flawed data and are very punitive for the fishing industry.
The fishermen sued the National Marine Fisheries Authority in its suit. The fishing group is “stepping up its fight to save Maine’s lobster heritage from a plan that the agency itself recognizes is not essential to survival,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Lobstermen Society.
Whales are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear and have been listed as critically endangered since 1970. In recent years, the number of baleen whales has declined further, with the latest data showing that there are fewer than 100 females breeding in the wild, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. .
The state and the fishermen appealed their case to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Environmental groups calling for stricter hunting rules to protect whales cheered the lower court’s decision.
“Scientific research shows that the overlap between fixed fishing gear and the right whale habitat leads to entanglement hazards,” said Brianna Sauder, outreach volunteer for the Maine Right Whale Alliance in the North Atlantic.
The American lobster industry is headquartered primarily in Maine and is one of the most profitable fishing businesses in the country. Maine lobsters were worth more than $700 million in ponds last year.
Mills described the federal court ruling as a “wrong and far from reality court decision that puts the lives of thousands of Maine families at risk.”