If we want to save right whales from extinction, Maine’s new plan is the wrong move.

An article in the Jan. 3 Portland Press Herald, describing the state’s plan to protect right whales from entanglement in lobster fishing gear, cited a tragic statistic: Scientists estimate only 406 right whales are left. With each year bringing more deaths than births, the survival of the species is at risk. Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say that even one right whale death per year will push the species toward extinction.

While Maine’s plan would decrease vertical fishing lines and mandate the use of weak rope, these two measures do too little to ensure that no whales will die in ropes off our coast. Even with a reduction in lines, right whales will still have to navigate a minefield of lobster rope. Weak rope also fails to protect right whales. Calves can still die from entanglement. Adult whales – even if they free themselves – are often left weakened, too exhausted to reproduce.

But the plan’s biggest problem is that it fails to promise to close habitats to fishing, for limited periods of time, while right whales are passing through. This is one of the best ways to keep right whales safe, as right whales can swim without any risk of entanglement.

Let’s do right by right whales and opt for a plan that offers the strongest possible protections – not one that only goes halfway. Once our right whales are gone, they’re gone for good.

Samantha Harden

Portland


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