Letter to the Editor: Whales

To the Editor:

Regarding your editorial “Save the whales?” you are talking about the extinction caused by man of the North Atlantic right whale, an iconic, spectacular, highly intelligent species, one that has been on this planet long before humans. There are only 400 left and they are not reproducing at a sustainable rate.

In the editorial you say, “According to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association analysis of data …” Seriously? We are going to rely on their analysis to risk the extinction of a highly evolved mammal?

The editorial further reads, “Only 8 percent (of right whale deaths) resulted from entanglement in trap or pot fishing gear, half of which could not be identified as to what fishery it came from.” And, “None of the gear was conclusively identified as coming from the Maine lobster fishery.” What you fail to mention is that Maine lobstermen have opposed the marking of their fishing gear for years, which obviously makes it impossible to identify their gear as causing entanglements. Further, no serious scientist would claim that only 8 percent of these deaths are caused by entanglements. The percentage is much, much higher. Further, whales that die from entanglement suffer for long periods of time.

According to the Conservation Law Foundation, “We do know that lobster gear entangles right whales and that more than 80 percent of all U.S. lobster fishing lines — connected to nearly 3 million traps — are in Maine. We know that right whales congregate in the Gulf of Maine, and we know that most have been entangled, many of them dragging the iconic lobster traps at the end of lines for hundreds of miles.”

According to the Sierra Club, “Entanglements have been responsible for 85 percent of all North Atlantic right whale deaths since 2010.”

The survival of these animals should not be compromised by the selfish and lazy attitudes of a very small group of people. It is absurd that lobstermen can not make adjustments to how they fish in order to save a species. I would like to think that most lobstermen care about the planet, want to be responsible stewards, and would hate to be partly responsible for a devastating extinction.

George Sanker


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