In this March 28, 2018, file photo, a North Atlantic right whale appears at the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Credit: Michael Dwyer | AP

Maine’s Marine Resources commissioner is proposing new lobstering rules that he says will protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale from extinction, while minimizing economic and safety risks for fishermen.

Commissioner Patrick Keliher said that based on his agency’s latest risk assessment, most lobster boats working within 3 miles of shore should be exempt from rope reductions proposed by federal regulators. He said the latest science shows the whales are more likely to be found farther offshore, where they may travel in pursuit of their preferred forage food.

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“We are assuming that whales are everywhere, but we are putting a different level of risk inshore versus offshore,” Keliher said.

Keliher said the inshore fleet should be required to weave “weak links” into their ropes, which would allow stray whales to break through them.

“We’ve broken the data down from nearshore to offshore and everything in between, and in doing so we’ve created our regulations based on what the data shows us,” he said.

To reduce risk for whales that are more likely to be present farther from shore, Keliher said, the state would still require offshore boats to put more traps on each trawl-rope and reduce the number of vertical lines in the water. But that requirement to “trawl up” would apply to far fewer boats, and not as aggressively as was previously proposed.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.