YORK – Maine lobstermen say a decision by federal regulators to close 1,600 square nautical miles of lobster fishing grounds off the southern Maine coast will cause undue hardship.
Pat White of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said the two-week closure intended to protect northern right whales is set to take effect Thursday. Fishermen will then have 48 hours to haul their traps from the water.
“Everything has to be out of the water by sunset on Saturday,” White said.
Several of the endangered whales were spotted in an area near Jeffrey’s Ledge, and the National Marine Fisheries Service has the right to close down the area to fishing in order to protect them.
White said lobstermen have taken steps to make their gear less harmful to whales, making the closure unnecessary. With weather and sea conditions unpredictable at this time of year, he said it is all but impossible for fishermen to remove all their traps on such short notice.
Most of Maine’s 7,000 lobstermen fish only during the summer, when lobsters are closer to shore. Those who choose to continue lobstering in the winter must travel much farther offshore to drop their traps.