When I kayak along the coast, it’s easy to imagine how whales get tangled in fishing gear, as the surface is heavily strewn with trap line markers.

Gov. Mills has called pending regulations to protect right whales “unfair, unreasonable and unwarranted,” in reference to their impact on the fisheries. Some have voiced concern about the science behind the federally proposed risk-reduction targets and argued that their lives and livelihoods are at risk.

Scientists could definitively identify where and what methods are the greatest threat to whales if gear were marked for that purpose. Increased aerial and vessel surveys also would help regulators determine need for area closures to fishing and reduction in traps.

Like all of Maine’s fisheries, the zooplankton that right whales feed upon are in flux. While lobster hauls during the past few years have been some of the best on record, Gulf of Maine temperatures are rising, and lobsters have been moving steadily northward. Understandably, fishermen are worried; however, any rush to cash in shouldn’t be justification for the extinction of another species.

Right whales are critically endangered, with about 400 remaining. Entanglement with fishing gear, primarily vertical buoy lines, accounts for 85 percent of the deaths.

Right whales were once highly valued and overhunted. Now lobsters are highly valued and intensely fished. Strong and effective measures are needed to ensure the survival of the whales while sustaining or, at least, prolonging the commercial harvest of lobsters.

Because the Northern right whale population is fast approaching a point of no return, it is important to remember: Extinction is forever.

Pam Ferris-Olson


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