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

The federal government Thursday issued a scientific assessment finding that commercial fishing practices, including those used in lobstering, must change in order to prevent the extinction of North Atlantic right whales.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s assessment concludes that risks to right whales, including entanglement in vertical fishing lines, must be reduced by 98 percent by 2031.

“That would be absolutely devastating for the Maine fishery,” said Patrice McCarron, the executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “The fishery as we know it will no longer exist and the opportunity for our children to remain in the fishery will probably disappear.”

The lobster industry has said it is willing to make needed changes to protect the whales, but doesn’t believe that lobster gear is to blame for whale deaths.

North Atlantic right whales are one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, with fewer than 400 remaining.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.