“MLA” Responds to Proposed Speed Rule Changes to Preserve Right Whale Population

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Whale in Gulf of Maine Photo Taken by Underwater Photographer Keith Ellenbogen.

Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) announced that it is proposing a new speed reduction rule intended to preserve the diminishing right whale population that remains along the US East Coast before they become extinct.

The changes affecting most vessels between 35-65 feet in length would require them to slow down more often and would “broaden the spatial boundaries and timing of seasonal speed restriction areas along the East Coast and expand mandatory speed restrictions of ten knots or less to include most vessels between 35-65 feet in length.”  To date, the emphasis has been on changing fishing gear of the lobstermen and vessel strikes by commercial fishing boats.

Yesterday Patrice McCarron, Executive Director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, (MLA),  responded with the following statement:  “While MLA will examine the proposed changes closely and submit official comments prior to the deadline, we are encouraged that NOAA has finally taken this step to address this very real threat to the North Atlantic right whale…..Data also shows that there has not been a single known right whale entangelement in Maine lobster gear in almost 20 years and Maine lobster gear has never been linked to a right whale death.  Since 1997,Maine Lobsterman have taken many actions to protect right whales from entangelement, removing thousands of miles of rope from the water, keeping rope off the surface where a right whale might feed, putting weak links in our rope that a whale could break free and marking out lines so we know if Maine lobster gear is responsible for entangelement.”

“MLA believes the federal government should apply the law equally among all sectors that might pose a risk to the endangered right whale and that its efforts have been dispropportionately and unfairly focused on lobster fisheries.  Addressing the threat posed by ship strikes with new rules and strict enforcement is an important and long overdue first step,” according to the press release issued by MLA’s Kein Kelley, Director of Advancement.