Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science


Mark Brewer

Committee Members

Kristin Vekasi, Nicholas Micinski

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


North Atlantic Right Whales (NARW) are on the verge of going extinct because of human activity. Entanglements in fixed fishing gear and vessel strikes are killing NARW at such a rate that their extinction is inevitable unless human-caused deaths are significantly reduced. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has subjected Maine’s lobster fishery to regulations aimed at protecting whales since 1997 as part of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. Recently proposed changes to the plan would effectively regulate Maine’s lobster industry out of existence. Lobstering is a cultural and economic staple of the state, so losing the lobster industry would be devastating to both the economy and identity of many coastal Maine communities. This thesis examines how Maine’s lobster fishery threatens NARW, the historical measures that have been taken by the NMFS to mitigate those threats, and examines a number of possible solutions that could protect both Maine lobstermen and NARW moving forward. This project also highlights the controversy that has arisen as a result of the newly proposed rules, and looks at fishery management strategies utilized by the state of Maine and Canada to inform decisions made at a federal level. The analysis is based on the input of the scientific community, lobstermen, lawmakers, regulators, and conservation activists in the form of professional interviews and the review of relevant rules, laws, and scientific literature. The analysis culminates in several suggestions as to how fishermen, lawmakers, and regulators can cooperate to improve conditions for NARW without crippling Maine’s lobster industry.

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