The Maine Lobstermen's Association said the industry has a “long history of conservation of lobster resource and large whale protections.”
Many environmentalists, meanwhile, have said the proposed rules don't go far enough.
“Ultimately the top line is we don't think it's enough to save the species,” said Michaela Morris, oceans associate for Environment America. “They are not going to get us where we need to be if the rule is finalized as written right now.”
The fisheries service is accepting comments about the proposed rules until March 1. It's holding public hearings about the proposed rules in New England, including one for southern Maine on Feb. 23 and one for northern Maine on Feb. 24.
The right whales were hunted to near extinction during the commercial whaling era. They're also vulnerable to threats such as collisions with large ships and the warming of the ocean due to climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also proposed a conservation framework for the whales, which is a requirement of the Endangered Species Act. Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said in a letter to the agency that she has “grave concern” that the rules could be devastating for the lobster fishery.
“If this comes to pass, it is not only fishermen and their crew who will be impacted, gear suppliers, trap builders, rope manufacturers – all these businesses face a deeply uncertain future,” Mills wrote.
This photo provided by Anastasia State Park shows a baby whale that washed ashore at Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The plight of endangered right whales took another sad turn Saturday, when a baby whale, possibly two months old, washed ashore on a Florida beach with telltale signs of being struck by a boat. (Anastasia State Park via AP)