By Richard Howland
I am writing this on behalf of the Zone B Lobster Council to voice our opposition to the proposed whale regulations facing the Maine Lobster industry. Our council as a whole is a pretty good representation of the industry. We are comprised of younger fisherman and older fisherman, some of us fish offshore and some fish inshore. Some of our fishermen are from multi-generation fishing backgrounds and some are first-generation fisherman. We work tirelessly to keep our industry sustainable and make important decisions for the future of the industry. We know and love these waters and the creatures that inhabit them. We are a hard-working and honest group, just like the majority of the men and women who we represent in the Maine Lobster Fishery.
After reviewing the biological opinion and coming plans for the continued reduction in our end lines resulting in a 98 percent reduction by the year 2030, I fear that there won’t be a future left to fight for. I will not mince words. This proposal, if enacted, will be the end of the Maine Lobster Fishery. This proposal is, at best, based on flawed, cherry-picked and sparse data. The proposal accuses us of contributing to the alleged decline of the northern right whale. There has actually never been a single death of a right whale linked to the Maine Lobster Fishery. That is a fact. Despite this, we have continued to make modifications to our gear that is supposed to make our gear safer for whales, no matter how ridiculous, ineffective, time-consuming and expensive the measures have been. This latest proposal goes beyond ridiculous and ineffective; it will point-blank put us out of business completely by 2030.
Let’s take a look at the economic impact of what the coast of Maine would look like without a strong lobster fishery. In Zone B alone, there are four year-round islands whose entire identities and economies are based on the lobster fishery. Schools would close, houses would go dark in the winter and entire communities would disappear. Generations of strong fishing heritage on the outer islands would be gone forever.
Not everybody can agree on whether trickle-down economics works on a national level. But there is no better proof that it works on a local level than the coast of Maine. The money from the lobster industry supports countless businesses up and down the coast: trap shops, truck dealerships, local grocery stores, boatyards, boat repair shops, metal fabricators, electricians and so many more. The ripple effect of this would be devastating to the coast of Maine and all of the hard-working, honest people who call it home.
If the absolute absence of any data unequivocally proving that we are responsible for the alleged decline of the northern right whale, the devastating economic effects to the coast of Maine, the loss of our outer islands and small coastal communities isn’t enough to reject this disastrous proposal, then I would encourage anyone who is responsible for putting this into law to visit my community on Little Cranberry Island and spend a day on the boat and see what we stand to lose.
All we are asking for is the opportunity to go fishing and to make a living to support our families and our communities. I urge the NMFS to consider what is at stake while also diligently reviewing the facts. The facts speak for themselves; we do not kill right whales.
Richard Howland resides in Islesford and the sentiments are also supported by Zone B Council members David Horner (Chairman), James Hanscom, Jason Joyce (LAC rep), Jason Gordius, John Stanley, Wyatt Beal, Mark Bennett and Adam Lawson.