The support of U.S. Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree for the Maine lobster industry was recently described in a June 19 article (“Backing lobstermen, Rep. Golden seeks to withhold funds for right whale protections”). While Rep. Golden received praise from state officials and some lobstermen at a meeting last Thursday in Camden, the practical effect would likely have been broader and potentially less flexible regulations.

Their appropriations rider would have prohibited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from using its “right whale status and risk reduction decision support tool” to quantify estimated risk. However, NOAA’s analysis concluded that this would remove the ability of states to make their own determination about what steps to take to provide protections for whales and would force them to agree to a stricter standard. In other words, NOAA would still be required under law to complete rule-making that results in a significant reduction in jeopardy to the species, with or without a “risk” tool.

Maine representatives should propose solutions that can reduce information gaps rather than establish temporary roadblocks. For example, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Salem, Massachusetts, successfully amended the same bill to include an additional $1.5 million for right whale research – bringing the total to $2.5 million. This investment can be a boon both to fishermen and right whales.

Maine’s waters are home to right whales. Acoustic surveys have shown the presence of right whales off Maine in all 12 months. Sightings data from whale-watching boats out of Bar Harbor over 30 years show over 170 individual right whales on 90 different days. More than 85 percent of those sightings show the whales in 300 feet of water or more.

Reducing gear in deeper offshore waters is what is needed to reduce risk. Sadly, another right whale – a female – was found dead last Thursday, the same day the Golden and Pingree rider was defeated 345-84.

Roger Fleming and Zack Klyver

Blue Planet Strategies


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