Maine lobstermen’s group sues feds in effort to stop new right whale rules

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A group representing Maine lobstermen sued the federal government on Monday, arguing that new regulations aiming to protect endangered right whales ignore scientific data and will cause “devastating economic hardship” for those working in the lobster industry.

It is the latest front in a longstanding battle over the regulations, which have been in the works for several years. The final rules prohibit lobster fishing in a 967-square-mile swath of the Gulf of Maine between October and January. They also require the use of weaker ropes so whales that become entangled can break free more easily and reduce the number of rope lines that fishermen can use to link buoys to lobster traps.

Environmentalists have argued that the changes are necessary to reduce the threat to the North Atlantic right whale, which has seen its numbers dwindle in recent decades, with fewer than 400 individuals remaining, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. But lobstermen say the rules are unnecessary, noting there are few recorded cases of right whales becoming entangled in the waters where Maine fishermen work.

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