Lobster industry taking a hit as a result of rules protecting right whales

Lobster industry taking a hit as a result of rules protecting right whales

New rules off the coast of New England are designed to protect endangered right whales, but as a result, the lobster industry is taking a hit.

Some lobstermen say they're losing thousands of dollars.

For David Hobson, it's a way of life. He's been a commercial fisherman for 30 years, but for three months out of the year, he can't catch lobsters due to the fishing ban in Cape Cod Bay to protect the endangered right whales.

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"The business doesn’t just stop on February 1, it continues on. Bills keep rolling," said Hobson.

Losing out on thousands of dollars, he took a part-time job to make ends meet.

The Division of Marine Fisheries recently extended the ban for another week since there are still so many whales feeding in the area.

Local lobstermen are trying to find a way the two can coexist.

"A year ago today, the South Shore Lobster Fisherman’s Association asked the team for an exemption to use modified vertical lines in a small area of the closure," said John Haviland, President of South Shore Lobster Fisherman's Association.

The rope they would use breaks around 3,500 pounds. However, they would put a sleeve over it, allowing it to break around 1,700 pounds, so right whales could break free. However, federal regulators didn’t move forward on the idea.

"The best technique is the one being looked at will be years in the future, but the one that seeks to use ropeless fishing, new technologies that will allow fisherman to not put rope in the water and if that happens, I think we’ll see a complete opening of the area to fishermen but it needs to be tested properly," said Charles "Stormy" Mayo.

Senior Scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies Stormy Mayo says 70 to 80 percent of right whales show distinct scares from entanglement. Seventeen right whales died last year in a population of a little more than 400. He says, in the long run, the regulations are a benefit to fishermen.

"We cannot afford another mortality. It will simply put too much pressure on the population of right whales and therefore on the population of fishermen," said Mayo.

But the population of fishermen could dwindle, if a solution isn't reached soon.

"It shouldn’t be all one way or the other there has to be a common ground somewhere," said Hobson.