We Urge Our Legislators To Support Lobster Fishing Bill

Most of us are environmentalists to some extent. We doubt there are few among us who do not find it heartbreaking that there was a record number of deaths of manatees this past year in Florida because excessive algae growth fueled by fertilizer runoff into the coastal Gulf waters is destroying the manatees’ primary food source, sea grass. The manatees literally are starving because of a lack of food. In our area of the country, the right whale long has been endangered. Only.a few hundred of these beautiful animals exist. The greatest threat to their extinction are boat strikes and fishing and lobster gear in which they can become entangled. Since 2015, state regulations have banned the use of lobstering equipment from Feb. 1 until at least April 30 off Cape Cod Bay and beyond, shutting down the local industry for the winter. Right whales are common in Cape Cod Bay during late winter and early spring, especially during March and April. The ban was further extended until May 15 this year because of the presence of right whales in our area. Needless to say, the state-mandated ban has taken a financial toll on those who earn their livelihood from lobstering. Some lobstermen say that their annual income has been cut in half since the ban went into effect in 2015. However, State Senator Patrick O’Connor from Weymouth has filed a bill that he has attached to the upcoming state budget that would provide some degree of recompense to lobster fishermen for their lost revenue. The total cost of the bill is miniscue — $12 million out of a total state budget of almost $50 billion. In our view, Senator O’Connor’s bill is long-overdue. Saving a species such as the right whale is a public good that benefits all of us in some way and has a direct economic benefit for our tourism industry. Yet the only ones being asked to pay the price for saving the whales are our lobster fishermen, for whom making ends meet always has been an iffy proposition, but which, thanks to climate change (which is driving lobsters further north to colder waters) and the state regulations, is becoming even more difficult. The bottom line is that since the state’s regulations are forcing our lobster fishing industry to “Save the Whales,” then it is time for the state to put its money where its slogan is.

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