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Court allows lobstering to continue while new whale protection rules are written

Thursday’s decision allows fishing to continue, however, and orders NMFS to have preliminary rule by the end of November and final rules by May of next year.

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — A federal judge in Washington agreed to give federal fisheries regulators more time to develop new rules for Maine and Massachusetts Lobstermen to protect right whales. And the court also said lobstering can continue while that work is done.

Environmental groups went to court to force the National Marine Fisheries Service to speed up the new restrictions on fishing and had also sought to shut down lobstering in the interim.

Thursday’s decision allows fishing to continue, however, and orders NMFS to have preliminary rule by the end of November and final rules by May of next year. It does state that the government’s 2014 whale protection order did not follow the law, and therefore a new order is required.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association said is “thrilled” fishing will be allowed to continue, in the interim, and that the court recognized NMFS has the expertise to develop the new rules.