A federal government plan to protect an endangered species of whale is snarled in delays and won’t likely be available for public comment until the summer, court papers state.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with state governments on the plan to protect the North Atlantic right whale, which only numbers about 400. The plan is expected to restrict commercial fishing activities off New England to try to prevent the whales from becoming entangled in fishing gear.

Jennifer Anderson, an assistant regional administration for protected resources in a NOAA regional office, wrote Tuesday that “unfortunately, the state measures have taken more time to be developed than we expected.” The agency expects to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register in July, she wrote.

The publication of the proposed rule will likely be followed by a 45-day public comment period, Anderson wrote.

Many lobster fishermen have expressed concern that the new rules could negatively impact their ability to fish. Conservationists have countered that the whales are in decline and face numerous threats.

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