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Lobster industry gets funds to help comply with whale rules

The rules are designed to prevent endangered whales from lethal entanglement in commercial fishing gear.

PORTLAND, Maine — Editor's note: This video originally aired on Feb. 14.

A funding package approved by federal lawmakers includes more than $17 million to help the lobster fishing industry adjust to new rules designed to protect rare whales.

The money is part of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill passed by Congress on Thursday. It includes $14 million to help the lobster industry comply with the new rules meant to help the North Atlantic right whale.

Members of Maine's congressional delegation said the rest of the money includes $2 million for lobster and right whale research, monitoring and conservation efforts. The rest will assist the lobster industry in preparing for the future and help scientists better understand right whale migration patterns, the lawmakers said.

Members of the Maine delegation have been pushing for funding to help the lobster industry. Members of the industry have long said the whale rules make it harder to fish and will cause economic harm.

The rules are designed to prevent the whales from lethal entanglement in commercial fishing gear.

Maine's delegation said in a statement that the state's “lobstermen and women have always been good stewards of the environment and have taken numerous actions to protect right whales when the science has warranted it.”

The funding package will go in effect once President Joe Biden signs it into law. 

"The funding comes at a critical time, as Maine's lobster industry faces challenges from both an uncertain future and the looming May 1 implementation date," Pat Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said in a news release. "Support for improved science will also ensure more targeted regulations in the future, which will have better conservation benefits for whales and less unintended consequences for Maine fishermen." 

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