WASHINGTON D.C., DC — An opinion piece by former Gov. Paul LePage published in the Wall Street Journal criticizes federal officials for proposing restrictions on the lobstering industry that fishermen say would put them out of business.
LePage writes that the restrictions required by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association would not actually reduce the number of right whale deaths in the Gulf of Maine because, he says, "No whale deaths due to entanglements or ship strikes have been recorded in Maine waters since 1998."
However, in September 2016, the Portland Press Herald reported that NOAA officials concluded the death of a 43-foot right whale found floating off Boothbay Harbor was most likely caused by entanglement in fishing gear ropes.
"We feel like the entanglement played a pretty significant role in the whale's death," NOAA's Jennifer Goebel told the paper. "It was severe. There was gear wrapped around the whale's head (and mouth), its flippers and its tail."
Earlier this year, Maine's Congressional delegation wrote to NOAA suggesting Maine's fisheries do not contribute to whale entanglements. But the Natural Resources Defense Council countered that while the majority of right whale deaths have occurred in Canada, right whales still appear in Maine waters during their annual migration and multiple sightings have been made in recent years. Furthermore, they argue the Gulf of Maine may have become an increasingly important feeding area for the whales.
LePage wrote that he spoke to lobstermen earlier this summer while bartending at McSeagulls Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor, and learned that "Maine's entire lobster industry is in turmoil over this."
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