A US federal judge this week has has ruled that new lobster fishing restrictions designed to conserve rare whales will be delayed until 2024 to give the government time to design them.
Judge James Boasberg ruled to give more time Thursday following a ruling in July that rejected a bid by the Maine lobster sector to delay new restrictions aimed at protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales, according to the Associated Press.
The July ruling prompted an expedited review of the fishery's Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, which found earlier this week that, based on the court ruling, the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery should have its MSC certificate suspended.
The suspension means Gulf of Maine lobster will not be eligible to be sold as MSC-certified or carry the MSC eco-label if it is landed after Dec. 15.
Thursday's decision provides additional time to ensure that a final whale plan is based on the best available science and commercial data, but not enough time to help recover right whales without needlessly sacrificing the Maine lobster fishery, Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, told the news site.
Patrick Keliher, commissioner for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said Friday that the ruling comes as a relief for the State of Maine and the lobster industry, which faced "economic devastation and unintended consequences" from the rules without proper preparation.
"The next two years will go by fast, so we will continue to work closely with Maine fishermen to develop a range of measures that ensure compliance with the changing regulatory landscape, and a resilient future for this important Maine industry," Keliher added.
The Maine lobster industry took a one-two punch earlier this year, when Monterey Bay red-listed the species following the court's initial July ruling.
Beyond finger pointing between sectors, Maine also feels unfairly tarnished by what it says are failures in Canada's regulations.
According to NOAA in 2017, 17 right whales were killed following collisions with boats and entanglements in Canada’s snow crab fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. That total represented about 4 percent of its remaining population, and was around six times the normal mortality of the whales.
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