Maine Nonprofit Launches Right Whale Protection Campaign
Currently, there is no certification program that ensures Maine lobster is whale-safe. A new organization is working to change that.
Mainers Guarding Right Whales, a nonprofit organization working to save North Atlantic right whales from extinction, has launched a new campaign to inform travelers heading to Maine “Vacationland” that lobster dinners at seaside harbors come at a steep price to North Atlantic right whales, the fifth largest mammal on earth.
A billboard featuring a new campaign by the organization began running today along roadways in Massachusetts and will continue to run through the end of August. The billboard asks “Is your lobster whale-safe?” and provides instructions for texting to receive further information.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the species is on the verge of extinction with around 360 left—which is on par with the equally endangered mountain gorillas of Central Africa.
The survival of the North Atlantic right whale depends upon removing heavy ropes attached to lobster traps that entangle whales as they swim and feed throughout Maine waters. This leads to inhumane suffering and eventual death from starvation or suffocation. Maine waters contain 3 million lobster traps strung to half a million ropes that are attached to colorful buoys bobbing on the surface. Each vertical rope represents danger to a whale.
The Mainers Guarding Right Whales media campaign is targeting East Coast residents. According to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts survey, the “overwhelming majority of U.S. East Coast residents support stronger protections for right whales.” In addition, “9 in 10 say the federal government should help protect the critically endangered marine mammal.” Overwhelmingly, 84 percent of those who eat lobster said “they would be willing to pay more if new fishing gear, or regulations, to decrease the risk of right whale entanglement increased the price of lobster.”
The solution to rope and gear entanglements is replacement with an innovative ropeless fishing technology that allows lobster traps to rise to the surface from smart phone signals. Promising trials in Canada and along the New England coastline are underway to help lobstermen transition to new forms of lobster fishing.
“We believe if we can educate and inform travelers about the near extinction of right whales and the cause they will take action and help protect the whales,” said Barbara Skapa founder and executive director of Mainers Guarding Right Whales. “The fishing industry in Maine has a long history of adapting to change in the face of new challenges, and we believe with the right support it will do just that. The biggest challenge is that ropeless technology is costly and requires sustained governmental subsidization to equip Maine’s lobster fisheries.”
To learn more about the organization, the campaign, and how to take action to help save North Atlantic right whales from extinction, visit MainersGuardingRightWhales.org.