As a lifelong Maine commercial fisherman, I want to correct the record and clarify misinformation provided by a recent letter writer (“Fighting whale-safe gear rules won’t ‘save Maine lobstermen,’ ” Feb. 6).

In 2021, the federal government released a 10-year plan requiring Maine’s lobster industry to reduce its already-minimal risk to endangered right whales by 98 percent. Requiring Maine lobstermen to adapt to “on-demand fishing technology” is not a practical solution, nor a proven technology, because of oppressive costs, safety issues, enforcement and a multitude of trap tangles.

Maine lobstermen are not opposed to regulations to protect the whales. Over the past two decades, we have complied with rules removing a tremendous amount of rope from the water, implemented weak links at the top of our buoy lines and marked our lines to show if our gear is responsible for an entanglement. We are also implementing a suite of new measures this spring.

Unfortunately, the writer ignores the fact that: The federal government recognizes there has never been a known right whale death by Maine lobster gear; the science shows foraging right whales are moving further away from areas where we fish; nearly every whale death since 2016 is attributed to Canadian gear, and the new rules do not apply to the U.S. shipping industry – though ship strikes have killed four right whales since 2018.

Maine lobstermen support solutions based on sound science. The new rules are not. We believe the only way to ensure Maine’s lobster industry isn’t wiped out by unfair federal regulations is to fight them in court.

Bob Baines
South Thomaston

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