Maine’s lobster industry will benefit from $1.2 million in federal funding to study the potential impacts of new regulations on fishing gear.
The money comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant American Lobster Initiative.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources will get $750,000 to test and evaluate lobster gear modifications that could be required under a proposal from NOAA to protect endangered right whales.
Just over $400,000 will go to the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation to provide lobstermen with on-board computers, sensors and other technology to help them collect data and images.
“With the industry facing new regulatory challenges from NOAA, these funds are a critical step to give our lobstermen the resources and gear options they need to stay in business,” according to a statement announcing the funding from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican and Angus King, an independent, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat.
The funding is part of $17 million in a federal bill to support Maine’s lobster industry, with part of the $1.2 million earmarked for funds to help with gear modernization.
“Testing of new gear technology is critically important since it is currently far from a viable option for industry and managers,” Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said. “This award will support the evaluation of different gear retrieval and location systems, all of which must work for this technology to be a feasible part of the future of this fishery.”
Federal officials have proposed gear modifications to reduce the incidence of entanglement for the whales, which number about 340.
The last documented entanglement in Maine lobster gear was in 2004, and no whale deaths have been attributed to the industry.