Right Whale Summary

5/28/2021 DMR Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Regarding Recently Released Bi-Op

Many questions have come from industry after NOAA released the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 batched biological opinion and the North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW) Conservation Framework.  I wanted to help clear up some confusion as many harvesters believed this was the final rule.  Below is a Q&A based on some comments we have received.  We will update the industry as we learn more about the timeline of the pending final rule. 

Pat Keliher
Maine Department of Marine Resources

MLA Statement on Biological Opinion

May 27, 2021
The Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) appreciates that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has completed a timely release of the final Biological Opinion under the Endangered Species Act, enabling the lobster fishery to continue to operate.
“While we are pleased that the lobster fishery can continue to operate under this new Biological Opinion, we are extremely concerned that NMFS has not addressed the major scientific deficiencies driving its overly aggressive risk reduction targets for U.S. fishermen,”stated Patrice McCarron, executive director of the MLA. “We are also disappointed that neither NMFS nor the Biden Administration has released a concrete plan to address the disproportionate harm to right whales occurring in Canada, or vessel strikes occurring in U.S. waters. Failure to demonstrate progress in these other areas is having a detrimental impact on Maine lobstermen.”
The Biological Opinion used a “worst case scenario” overestimating projected declines in the right whale population. In its comments to NMFS, the MLA recommended science‐based alternative methods to fix these deficiencies and more realistically assess the impact of U.S. fisheries on right whales.
The consequence of an overly precautionary and unrealistic analysis are draconian restrictions that will destroy the lobster fishery. The technology necessary to achieve 98 percent risk reduction across the entire fishery is in its infancy and fraught with technical, economic, and fisheries enforcement challenges.
While important details will be determined in future regulations, the MLA supports phasing implementation over 10 years, with a strong commitment to adaptively manage if the right whale population performs better than NMFS’s overly pessimistic analysis.
The Biological Opinion is based on pending regulations for the first phase of the Conservation Framework. Maine’s 5,900 lobstermen anxiously await the publication of the final rule to learn what conservation measures will be required this year, and the timeline for implementation. According to NMFS, the final rule is expected to publish this summer

The right whale issue has been ongoing for Maine lobstermen for many years. The Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance has covered the stories in their monthly newsletter since 2011. The links below (newest to oldest) range in topic from NOAA management plans including coverage of the Take Reduction Team, other issues plaguing whales, the Canadian response and more.

Stories from 2021————————-

June 2021:

MLA President Kristan Porter appeared on Fox News to talk about Bi-Op

Federal plan to save whales could mean big changes for lobster industry

Scientists Identify Highest Number Of North Atlantic Right Whale Mother-Calf Pairs In Years

May 2021: Federal Assessment: Commercial Fishing Practices Must Change To Prevent North Atlantic Right Whale Extinction

New Lobster Regulations to Protect Right Whales Met With Opposition on All Sides

Lobster industry still waiting for precise rules from feds to protect right whales

Federal Assessment: Commercial Fishing Practices Must Change To Prevent North Atlantic Right Whale Extinction

April 2021: Tangled

Part 1: Controversial Regulations Proposed for Maine Lobster Fishery

Part 2: A Deep Dive into the Data

Part 3: The Potential Trickle Down Effect

March 2021: Maine Lobstermen’s Association Raises Concern Over Fishery’s Future And Need For Better Data In Whale Rules


March 2021: Maine Lobstermen Make Their Voices Heard


March 2021: Canada’s 2021 Right Whale Protections Similar To 2020


January 2021: NMFS calls for deeper cuts over ten years to protect whales

January/February 2021: Info session for NMFS proposed Right Whale Rules

Pre- recorded slides to learn more about the rule

Stories from 2020 ————————-

December 2020: Court Case on hold and New Regulations in Mass….

November 2020: NOAA Estimates Only 366 Right Whales Alive…

October 2020: The New Whales Rules…..How Did we Get Here??

September 2020: Federal Court Keeps Lobster Fishery Open…for now

August 2020: Draft Whale Rules Expected by Fall

July 2020: US Federal Laws Create Complex Path for Lobster Fishery


June 2020: Economic Impact of Whale Regulations Would Be Profound


May 2020: Lobstering Laws:Will the Whales Win?


April 2020: NOAA officials answer tough questions about whale plan


March 2020, DMR and NOAA struggle to find agreement on whale plan


February 2020, lobstermen frustrated over proposed whale rules

January 2020, 2019 Year in Review; packed with conflict

Stories from 2019 ————————

December 2019, from Commissioner Keliher, whale plan reflects practicality, federal reality

December 2019: Lobstermen worry about impact of state whale plan

November 2019: MLA continues to challenge NMFS whale proposal

November 2019, DMR releases right whale risk reduction plan

November 2019, MLA urges DMR to simplify proposed gear marking

October 2019, MLA Legal Team Expands, Support from Lobstermen Key to its Success

October 2019, Steaming Ahead, MLA Focus on Whales

October 2019: Right Whale Debate Heats Up


September 2019, New analysis shows NMFS must look beyond lobster to save right whales

September 2019, ropeless fishing tests frustrate snow crab fishermen

September 2019: Steaming Ahead: MLA pulls out of NMFS plan

August 2019, Maine officials go on defensive over whale rules

July 2019, more than a thousand lobstermen turn out for state whale meetings

July 2019, Five Right Whales dead in Canada

June 2019, Copepod presence key to Right Whale movements

June 2019, DMR to hold meetings with lobstermen in June, August to discuss whale rules

June 2019, seismic testing permits still under review

May 2019, Maine lobstermen must reduce Vertical Lines by 50%

April 2019, Steaming Ahead: Discussion on Whale rules heating up

March 2019, Teaming up for Right Whale survival, from Mike Pentony, head of GARFO

February 2019, snow crab quota in Gulf of St. Larence corresponds to Right Whale entanglements

Stories from 2018 ———————————

November 2018, Take Reduction Team Meeting update

November 2018, MLA Continues legal battle on possible whale rules

October 2018, Maine’s concerns heard at whale meeting

October 2018, Long Island Lobsterman grows up with whale rules

August 2018, Young lobstermen weigh in on 20 years of whale regulations

July 2018, tiny copepod causes quivers in Gulf Of Maine food web

June 2018, its not that easy to keep track of right whales

June 2018, MLA files motion to enter court case

June 2018, Adaptation a part of life for Maine lobstermen (Dwight Carver)

May 2018, Right Whale dilemma may be beyond federal law

May 2018, Traditions under siege (Mike Sargent)

April 2018, Canada announces new whale protection measures in Gulf of St. Lawrence

February 2018, Steaming Ahead: Right whales remain hot topic

Stories from 2017 ——————————-

November 2017, New Statistical Model for Estimating Right Whale population (Pace model)

November 2017, Groups threaten to sue over Right Whale decline

November 2017, NOAA recommends actions to help right whales

September 2017, Right Whale deaths reveal differences in US vs Canadian whale protection laws

August 2017, High mortality among Right Whales in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence

August 2017, Steaming Ahead, bad year for Right Whales

July 2016, disentangling a whale takes skill and training

July 2017, surge of Right Whales deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence

June 2017, Steaming Ahead on April 2017 Take Reduction Team meeting

Stories prior to 2016 ————–

March 2011, Fishermen offer perspective on whale entanglement

November 2010, Lobstermen find trouble with whale rope

June 2011, understanding the Endangered Species Aact

November 2013, where have Bay of Fundy whales gone?

May 2015, Researchers document offshore route of right whales

For more information on right whales and Maine lobstermen, check out the following webpage and this great video.