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Maine lobstermen claim they are being unfairly targeted regarding whale entanglements. Recent NOAA data shows that 84 large whales were found entangled on the east coast of the U.S. in the last three years. Eleven were traced back to a specific fishery. Seven were documented entangled in Maine purple-marked lobster gear on them. Three of those whales were humpbacks and four were minkes. The data also shows that three large whales had Massachusetts’s gear on them and one had Canadian gear on it. The majority of the entanglements were from Maine lobster gear, which has the most fixed fishing gear of any fleet on the east coast.
These entanglements are accidental. No lobsterman wants to harm or kill a whale. As a former sternman, I know how special the ocean is to fishermen. Lobstermen respect the ocean and know that being in Nature every day is an exceptional way to make a living.
While accidental entanglement persists it can be prevented. Fortunately, there are solutions so that Maine lobstermen can prevent future accidents. On-demand fishing gear can dramatically reduce the risk of large whale entanglement and is currently being fished commercially in Canada. The new omnibus law allocates money to make on-demand gear a reality and provide it to lobstermen free of charge. Maine lobstermen should demand that this accident-preventing tool be made available as soon as possible.
Large whales are being entangled wherever there are end lines in the ocean, particularly in Maine.
Maine Coalition for North Atlantic Right Whales