Claims and Facts

North Atlantic Right Whales and Lobster Fisheries

INTRO – WHAT IS THIS ABOUT/IN RESPONSE TO

 

 

Claim 1: There has not been a single known right whale entanglement in Maine lobster gear in almost 20 years.

Fact: Fishing rope entanglements are the leading cause of mortality for North American right whales (NARW). The Northeast US lobster and Jonah crab fisheries account for approximately 93 percent of the buoy lines in the NARW habitat and only 1 percent of all entanglement deaths can be connected to the gear from a specific fishery. If whales were found entangled before 2021, there was no way to determine where the gear came from, since there were no marking requirements to identify between states.

 

Claim 2: Maine lobster gear has never been linked to a right whale death.

Response:  The waters off Maine have the highest concentration of all vertical line gear in US waters, and the US lobster and Jonah crab fisheries account for 93 percent of all buoy lines in the NARW habitat. Since 2017, there have been 27 individuals either confirmed dead or with serious injuries as a direct cause of entanglements in fishing gear. Approximately 80 percent of NARW have entanglement scars. If whales were found entangled before 2021, there was no way to determine where the gear came from, since there were no marking requirements to identify between states.

 

Claim 3: New research shows that NARW migration patterns have moved away from the Gulf of Maine lobster grounds.

Response: The new research referenced by the MLA actually states that, while NARW are expected to spend less time in the eastern Gulf of Maine, their movements have become less predictable. And whales still enter the Gulf of Maine. This research also predicts MORE whales will migrate into the western Gulf of Maine in the future. The article clearly states that “managing right whales will not be as simple as shifting protections to the north.”

 

Claim 4: The federal government is holding Maine lobstermen accountable for the decline of the right whale population.

Response:  The federal response and the downgrading of seafood ratings due to increased NARW deaths is not exclusive to the Maine lobster fishery, but rather has been consistent across all pot/trap fisheries in the Northeast US Atlantic fisheries.

 

Claim 5: Canada is not doing anything to protect the whales.

Response: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada enacts immediate 14-day closures in fishery regions where a NARW is observed. These closures are extended and can become year-long if NARW continued to be observed. In response, Canadian snow crab fishers began trialing and fishing with ropeless gear in January 2020, as part of a fishery improvement project (FIP). More than 750,00 lbs. of snow crab were sent to market this year from fully ropeless gear used in areas closed to fishing with buoy lines.