Lobstering is a $300,000,000 a year industry but some say new regulations could be devastating. Senator Olympia Snowe held a hearing in Brewer today to address the regulations that would require fishermen to change the kind of rope they are using. About 200 fishermen turned out to testify and hear comments about the proposed rule change that will make them change to sinking rope on October 1st. The measure is supposed to prevent endangered North Atlantic Right Whales from getting entangled in fishing gear.
Fishermen say the new rope is hard to handle and there are some serious safety concerns. Those testifying in favor of the new regulations say there are only about 350 Right Whales left and everything possible needs to be done to protect them. Senator Olympia snowe and others say there is too little scientific research to verify the measure will protect the whales as it’s intended. Todays gathering was an official senate field hearing to get testimony from both sides of the issue. The goal is to reach some kind of compromise to protect the whales without crippling Maine’s fishing industry. Members of the Maine Lobstermens Association say they plan to ask for the new regulations to be deferred until after the 2008 season to give lobster men more time to comply. Lobstermen say it will cost them thousands of dollars and the new rope does not hold up on Maine’s rocky ocean bottom. They say that will mean even more expense for them down the road.