Rope Regulations Part 1 

For years the right whale was a popular target for whalers but now it’s believed there are only between three hundred and four hundred left. Actions being taken to save these whales have a direct impact on many Mainers.Floating rope was used by lobstermen when they set traps, but it posed a threat to the right whale. Many have died after getting caught and tangled in the lines.A new regulation went into effect earlier this month that stops lobstermen from using floating rope – they now have to use sink rope.But trading in the old ropes that are now illegal for new ones carries with it a financial burden too big for many to bare.”It’s a double edge sward. They’re grateful for the financial assistance, they think the rule is cockamamie and they don’t want anything to do with it, but they know it’s a regulation they’ve got to comply with.” says Laura Ludwig with the Gulf of Maine Lobster Association.The financial assistance comes in the form of the Rope Exchange….Federal Grant money was used to fund it. For each pound of old rope that was brought in Fishermen were paid a dollar 40. The old rope will not go to waste, it will find a welcome new home.”All of the good stuff will be used to make woven door mats by a company here in Waldoboro” adds Ludwig.The Exchange was meant help defer the cost of the sink rope.Ludwig explains, “They weren’t going to be able to afford to do a swap over without some sort of financial assistance.”But it won’t cover it all.”The cheapest sink rope around is probably around 2 dollars, 2 dollars and 20 cents … plus a third more in weight, so it is expensive.” says Pat White of the Gulf of Maine Lobster Association.Frank Thompson, a Lobsterman, says “Last winter it cost me 22 thousand just to rig over one boat with the neutral buoyant rope.”While the State points to the safety of the whales, Some lobstermen, like Thompson, say where they fish, whales are not a concern. “We don’t have a problem with the whales, all we got is humpbacks, and we aint never caught a whale in 43 years of fishing , so.””I’ve only seen one or two Right whales in 22 years on the water here in Maine.” says James O’Brien, a lobsterman.”The downeast guys I think are getting a little bit of an unfair shake out of this because of the area that they fish… They don’t fish anymore than 10 miles out and the whales that are sited are all 40 or 50 miles out.” White explains.They say the old rope could last for five years… but because of the rocky Maine coast the sink rope may only last a season.White goes on to say, “Some of the stuff, the guys have complained they’ve only been able to haul it three or four times. Rope manufacturers are going to get better at what they do hopefully, but that’s gonna take time.”Until that time comes, lobstermen will have to find a way to cover the cost and stay afloat financially.”We’ve applied through congress two different appropriations to see if we can get more money, because I know we’re gonna need it.” says White.Ludwig adds, “I have a huge long waiting list at this point. We ahve pretty much run out of money for this program until we can hopefully garner more support from the federal governement.”