Federal appeals court reinstates lobster gear restrictions off Maine’s coast

A federal appeals court is reinstating restrictions on fishing gear in a nearly 1,000-square-mile swathe of ocean off Maine’s coast. It’s a blow to Maine’s lobstermen and a victory for advocates for the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

In October, in an effort to protect the roughly 340 right whales remaining on the planet from potentially deadly entanglements with fishing gear, the federal government imposed a four-month restriction on the use of trap-rope in the area. Lobstermen consider the area prime winter fishing grounds, but the rope-ban would effectively bar 60 or more boats from fishing there. Before the restrictions took effect, the Maine Lobstering Union won a stay from a U.S. district judge in Bangor.

But late Tuesday, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that the lower court overstepped its authority. The court said that while the stakes are high on both sides, Congress had “placed its thumb on the scales” for endangered species such as the right whales.

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