Lobstahs vs Whales

Lobstermen in Maine are up in arms over new federal rules they say could wipe out the entire lobster industry.

At issue is the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The conservation plan is intended to protect several species of whale -- including endangered North Atlantic right, humpback and fin whales -- from becoming dangerously entangled in commercial fishing lines. The Fisheries Service observed several dozen whale injuries and fatalities between 1997 and 2003, and the new rules are intended to protect these endangered species.

But lobstermen aren't happy. One of the new rules requires commercial fishermen to "replace floating lines used to connect lobster pots on the ocean floor with sinking line, which lies on the ocean bottom," according to the Boothbay Register. The cost to do so could be excessive:

Lobstermen say replacing all their lines will not only be initially expensive, but the rocky ocean bottom off the coast of Maine will fray the lines, requiring they be regularly replaced. There is also concern about fishing accidents if a frayed line snaps as it is being pulled in.

The Maine Lobstermen's Association is estimating the initial replacement costs at $15,000 per lobstermen and then there is an additional annual cost of $5,000 to $8,000 to replace all the lines that break and pots that are lost because of the rocky bottom. There are currently 5,800 commercial lobstermen licensed in Maine.

Lobster is one of Maine's biggest industries -- worth an estimated $300 million a year -- but it's not an easy business. Stocks in Maine are healthy, but have been seriously depleted in Southern New England. And with consumer demand for lobster on the rise, is may not be that long before lobsters are endangered species, too.

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I assume it's not cheap and easy to fish for lobster as it is... meaning, the lobster fishermen that this effects aren't farming genetically engineered lobsters or anything like that. So, this begs the question, how many whales are really hurt by the floating lines? While I don't think lobster needs to be cheap and easily accessible to the masses, I also don't think changing the livelihood of these people and perhaps putting some out of business is the answer.

Graham- Lobster are not nor is it likely that Lobster will every be farmed as they are too cannablistic too be raise in large numbers. The majority of lobstermen earn less than $50,000 per year and that's be for expenses like boats, mooring, bait and fuel. Most people can afford a 10% reduction in pay and with rising costs, many will leave the business. Lobster landing in Maine are setting records almost every year due to a great stewartship by the fishing community that's well over 40 years old in history. The issue at hand is the right whale population and the reality is that they too need protection to get to sustainable levels. However, right whales rarely come close to shore and the Maine fishery is primarily an inshore one. The shallow water fishery is even more subject to tides, currents and wind and with a real absence of whales, sinking line is unneccesary. The regulations were originally started for the deep, offshore fishery of Southern New England. Just the goverment using a broad brush again. These fishermen of Maine are trying to make a living in remote areas where making a living is real work and there aren't alot of options. Peace.

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