Billboard asks if lobster is “safe for whales”
AUGUSTA – As drivers cross Massachusetts on their way to Vacationland en route to scenic Mount Desert Island and the wonders of Acadia National Park, they can see a spectacle that would make a lobster’s blood boil.
Mainers Guarding Right Whales, a nonprofit that says its mission is to help save the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from extinction, has launched a new campaign with a sign display that asks, “Is your lobster safe for whales?”
Readers are encouraged to text a number letting them know that there is no certification program that guarantees Maine lobster is “whale-safe” and that the organization calls for the fishery to be implemented. “Cordless”, a technology that pulls vertical ropes out of the water. column. The technology has not made its way into widespread commercial use.
“We believe that if we can educate and inform travelers about the near extinction of right whales and its cause, they will take action and help protect the whales,” said Barbara Skapa, Founder and Executive Director of Mainers Guarding Right Whales . “The fishing industry in Maine has a long history of adapting to change in the face of new challenges, and we believe that with the right support, it will succeed. The biggest challenge is that cordless technology is expensive and requires sustained government subsidy to equip Maine’s lobster fisheries.
The first billboard was installed on Highway 1 in Massachusetts this week. It will last until the middle of the month. After that, a second will ride for the rest of August on Interstate 95.
Skapa said engagement with the text line so far has been stable and that she hopes the notice board will help inform travelers coming to lobster country and inspire them to engage in an effort to make things safer for whales.
Virginia Olsen, a lobster boat from Stonington and a board member for Lobster 207, said the industry is whale-friendly and has Fairtrade certification. In his eyes, the billboard was a frightening tactic aimed at tourists who want to come to Maine on vacation and enjoy the state’s lobster.
“They are trying to scare people into not eating lobster and it is just unfortunate,” she said.
The right whale population has declined to around 360 individuals. Federal officials cited entanglements with fishing gear in the water as a major factor in their deaths.
Maine’s lobster fishery uses traps on the seabed that are attached to a buoy on the surface of the water with a vertical rope, although lobsters ardently maintain that they are not the ones that cause the death of right whales. .
“Maine lobster boats have always gone out of their way to try to help and do whatever we can for the North Atlantic right whales,” said Olsen.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to release new fishing rules to help protect whales after the agency was sued for lobster fishing operating in violation of the endangered species law.
Mainers Guarding Right Whales also encouraged people to buy lobsters from divers, which is not legal in Maine but is allowed in Massachusetts, and to consider avoiding lobster until it is certified “whale-safe”.
A recent poll by Pew Charitable Trusts found that nearly 9 in 10 people said it was important for the federal government to protect right whales. Three-quarters of those polled who said they favor regulation that prioritizes economic growth over protecting endangered species also said they think it is important for the government to effectively protects right whales.
The Trusts also found that 84 percent of people who eat lobster said they would be willing to pay more if new fishing gear or regulations aimed at reducing the risk of right whale entanglement increased the price of the fish. lobster.
Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher called the billboard a “press stunt” that ignores the state’s lobster industry’s commitment to protecting right whales and said it ‘it oversimplified the complex challenges of transitioning to cordless fishing.
Even proponents of cordless fishing said it was not ready for ‘prime time’ and fishermen raised concerns about the cost and how it might work in a fishing setting. day-to-day.
“As I said before, cordless fishing technology is currently not a viable option,” Keliher said. “Technology needs to be developed further to ensure that all fixed and mobile gear fleets can locate cordless lobster gear to avoid conflict and lost gear. “
The application of ropeless fishing must also be developed, according to Keliher.
“Marine Patrol will need to be equipped with technology to locate, recover and reverse gear, an enforcement action that is critical to the management of this precious resource,” he said. “DMR will endeavor to examine this technology and ensure that these issues are fully addressed. “