I am writing this in response to Jill Goldthwait’s May 21 column in this paper titled “Maine’s lobstermen caught in a vicious two-pronged assault” in which she states that “there is little evidence that right whales ever show up in Maine lobster fishing grounds.”
Although repeating an untruth over and over again may cause some people to believe it, it does not make it true. Right whales are in fact found in Maine’s lobster fishing grounds, both offshore and inshore, as is documented by scientists and by naturalists aboard whale watch boats, among others. Sometimes those sightings are very close to shore, as was widely reported in 2018 when right whales were seen off of Wells and York beaches.
Right whales do show up in waters off the coast of Maine. Claiming there is “little evidence” for this is absurd.
Ms. Goldthwait also states that there are “no documented instances of Maine lobster fishing gear ever killing or seriously injuring a right whale.”
In fact, Maine lobster gear has entangled and injured right whales, as can be seen in NOAA’s large whale entanglement reports. But those documented cases are very likely a tiny percentage of the injuries and deaths caused by this gear. Because of the industry’s longstanding opposition, most gear remains unmarked, and so, if an entangled whale is observed, and not all are, in those rare cases where gear is actually recovered, it is usually impossible to identify which fisheries’ gear entangled the whale.
What we do know is that right and other endangered whales too often get entangled in vertical buoy lines. Considering the fact that there are nearly 3 million licensed lobster traps off Maine’s coast, the vertical buoy lines associated with those traps do threaten the continued existence of the right whale.
Rather than remaining in denial, we should face facts and immediately take effective measures to protect these critically endangered whales, and the fishermen, by demanding that the state and federal governments financially help fishermen make the necessary changes to ensure the future of these whales. Now, before it’s too late!