Potential lawsuit over right whale deaths could affect U.S. lobstermen

Industry says Canadian regulations need to be the focus of improvement


A record number of right whale deaths this summer has a team of environmental organizations threatening to sue NMFS in an effort to force more regulations to protect the endangered species.

Of the record 16 right whale deaths, 12 occurred in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. The snow crab fishery there has not been subject to whale-safe gear restrictions. The remaining four were found off Cape Cod. With these deaths, the total North Atlantic right whale population is estimated to be below 450 animals.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation sent a joint letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Chris Oliver, NMFS executive director.

“If [the fisheries service]does not take action within 60 days to remedy its violations, our organizations will pursue litigation,” the groups wrote to U.S. officials.

None of the deaths have been linked to U.S. fisheries directly.

According to Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Canadian fishermen should be required modify their gear to make it less lethal to whales before there are any additional regulations to U.S. lobstermen.

“Further regulating U.S. fisheries does not solve that problem… We have taken the entanglement issue very seriously, [but]it is an unfair playing field right now,” she said.

She also said that research should be done to assess the effects of climate change of the whale population.

About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman.

© Diversified Communications. All rights reserved.