Governor pushes back at feds on protection for rare whales

National News

FILE – In this March 28, 2018 file photo, the baleen is visible as a North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. Maine Gov. Janet Mills said in July 2019 that a federal plan to help endangered right whales at the expense of fishermen is “foolish” and is directing the state to come up with rules with a lesser impact on lobster fishermen. Maine’s congressional delegation is backing the governor. North Atlantic right whales are facing the threat of extinction. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A directive for new protections for endangered right whales represents an “absurd federal overreach” that places an unfair burden on Maine’s signature lobster fishery, Gov. Janet Mills said.

She ordered the state Department of Marine Resources to draft an alternative plan that would reduce the impact on lobstermen.

“My administration will not allow any bureaucrat to undermine our lobster industry or our economy with foolish, unsupported and ill-advised regulations,” she wrote in a letter this week to the lobster industry.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants the state to present a plan in September for reducing the lobster industry’s threat to right whales by 60%.

The plan would mean reducing by half the number of lobster trap lines that could entangle whales. It would also require weaker rope for traps in federal waters.

But the Democratic governor says that Maine’s lobster industry isn’t the “primary problem” and that there’s a “disturbing lack of evidence” connecting it to recent right whale deaths. Six have died in recent weeks in Canadian waters.

She said she would “defend Maine’s lobster industry in the face of absurd federal overreach.”

Maine’s congressional delegation, which supports Mills, says a “science-informed and equitable solution” is needed to protect the whales, which number around 400.

Maine officials say the burden on lobstermen is unfair because most right whales swim farther offshore, away from the thousands of lobster traps in Maine waters. So it doesn’t make sense to impose drastic restrictions that could imperil the state’s lucrative lobster fishery, they say.

Maine scientists will reexamine the issue and submit a plan in September, but it won’t necessarily look anything like the original proposal by a NOAA team, said Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

“We’re acting on that on the governor’s direction to reevaluate the data and come back in September with a plan that includes a risk-reduction target that is more commensurate with what’s happening in Maine waters,” he said Friday.

NOAA issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” that Maine may “unilaterally” withdraw from a process that included Maine participants on the panel that made the original recommendations to the agency.

The submission of a plan is another step in the process of creating new rules to protect right whales. The target is to have the rules in place in 2021.

The proposed restrictions on trap lines come at a challenging time for lobstermen. A warming ocean has triggered concerns about the long-term health of the fishery, and a shortage in herring used for bait is creating a worry for lobstermen this summer.

Most of the U.S. lobster catch comes to the shore in Maine, where lobstermen landed nearly 120 million pounds (54 million kilograms) last year.

___

Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Recent Videos

Golf Talk

Thumbnail for the video titled "Golf Talk"

Roller Rink Night

Thumbnail for the video titled "Roller Rink Night"

Ride Along with New K9

Thumbnail for the video titled "Ride Along with New K9"

Donating his Pay Raise

Thumbnail for the video titled "Donating his Pay Raise"

Smokey the Bear

Thumbnail for the video titled "Smokey the Bear"

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder

Thumbnail for the video titled "Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder"

Hazen Astros Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Hazen Astros Baseball"

Minot Metros Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Minot Metros Baseball"

Bismarck Senators Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Bismarck Senators Baseball"

Dr. Wynne on what's to come

Thumbnail for the video titled "Dr. Wynne on what's to come"

Watford City Tornado Shelters

Thumbnail for the video titled "Watford City Tornado Shelters"

Food Pantry

Thumbnail for the video titled "Food Pantry"

New App for Sobriety

Thumbnail for the video titled "New App for Sobriety"

Corn Rootworm

Thumbnail for the video titled "Corn Rootworm"

Isaak Motion Hearing

Thumbnail for the video titled "Isaak Motion Hearing"

How to tell if you're suffering from a heat related illness

Thumbnail for the video titled "How to tell if you're suffering from a heat related illness"

Bismarck Shooting

Thumbnail for the video titled "Bismarck Shooting"

Amber's Wednesday Morning #OneMinuteForecast 7/1

Thumbnail for the video titled "Amber's Wednesday Morning #OneMinuteForecast 7/1"

Wednesday's Forecast: Mostly sunny & warmer

Thumbnail for the video titled "Wednesday's Forecast: Mostly sunny & warmer"

Babe Ruth Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Babe Ruth Baseball"
More Video

KX News Trending Stories

Don't Miss