In this May 29, 2020, file photo, Eric Pray unpacks a lobster on a wharf in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Maine’s governor and congressional delegation are calling on the federal government to push back new fishing rules designed to protect whales so fishermen can comply with them.

New lobster fishing rules require fishermen to start using weakened rope or special inserts to weaken existing rope beginning in May in some waters. That’s to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and the four members of the delegation said Monday the federal government should push the conversion deadline from May 1 to July 1. They said a lack of compliant gear is making it hard for harvesters to comply with the rules.

Failure to delay the rule would cost the industry more than $7 million, the governor and delegation said. They sent a letter asking Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to have the National Marine Fisheries Service delay the new rules.

“The large projected economic losses, the negligible change to risk, and the unavailability of rope and weak links are all clear reasons to direct NMFS to extend the compliance date to July 1, 2022,” they wrote.

The right whales are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear. They number less than 340 animals in the world according to the most recent estimate.