Members of the lobster industry and environmentalists are asking federal regulators to improve a plan meant to reduce the likelihood of North Atlantic right whales getting entangled in commercial fishing lines, which can cause them to die.
The whales are an endangered species. There is only about 450 of them left, and last year, more of them died than were born.
The Atlantic Right Whale Take Reduction Team spent this week in Providence with officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifying next steps to addressing the entanglement issue.
During the meeting Friday, the team asked federal regulators to start thinking about thinner fishing lines and what the impacts could be on both the lobster industry and the whales.
Thinner lines would allow whales to break free of them easier, but the Maine Department of Marine Resources cautioned, those ropes could cost fishermen more money because they could get fewer seasons out of them.
The take reduction team also requested a look into ropeless gear and the best places to start experimenting. The South Shore Lobster Fishermen’s Association said ropeless gear could allow for fishing in temporarily closed areas with lots of right whale activity.
NOAA Fisheries is expected to finish their work on the team’s recommendations by their next meeting in March.