MAINE, USA — A federal judge has rejected the efforts by the federal government and environmental groups to force the immediate closure of lobstering in a section of ocean off the Maine coast to protect right whales.
Last month, Justice Lance Walker sided with the Maine Lobstering Union and granted a temporary injunction to stop a new federal closure of a roughly 960-square mile area off the Maine coast. The lobstering union argued that there is no evidence right whales are in that area, and therefore it should not be closed.
The federal agencies appealed that decision and asked for an emergency “stay” of the order, contending the closure is essential now to protect endangered right whales.
On Friday, Justice Walker denied that request, meaning the area remains open to fishing.
In his decision, the judge stated that the federal agency and environmental groups are not likely to win their case.
He said, “I halted enforcement of the season closure on what I consider to be a failure [by the federal agency] to address whether right whales aggregate in the LMA 1 restricted area."
Justice Walker has agreed with the fishermen that the National Marine Fisheries Service used “modeling techniques” but did not show hard data to prove right whales are present in the Lobster Management Area 1 restricted area.
The appeal of his original order will be considered by the federal appeals court. For the time being, however, lobstering will be allowed to continue while the case moves forward.