Letter to the editor: Abandoned gear shows extent of threat to right whales


Subject: “A small island in the Gulf of Maine produces huge amounts of derelict fishing gear” (July 26, page B1):

Lobster traps, lines and bags of bait are stacked on Outer Bar Island off Gouldsboro, which has been cleaned up by people from the Ocean Conservancy, the Rozalia Project and Maine Island Trail Association volunteers . Gigi Veve/Ocean Conservancy

The article about lobster industry equipment waste on Outer Bar Island off Gouldsboro is not an isolated case. There were 230 abandoned lobster traps on this island with a high water mark perimeter of approximately 2,400 feet. It’s near a trash trap by 10 feet of shore.

Last summer, I went for the first time to Seguin Island, off Popham Beach, to visit the lighthouse. On a side trail, there were five litter traps and several bales of nylon rope in less than 58 feet of shoreline – nearly one trap for every 10 feet of shoreline.

The Mainers like to point the finger at the Louisiana and Texas oil industries for destroying their state’s environment and coastline. Maine is no different, allowing the lobster industry to trash Maine in so many ways.

Lobster fishermen say, “Right whales don’t get caught in Maine’s lobster gear. Yes indeed. A published, peer-reviewed study of available photographs of right whales, taken from 1980 to 2009, found that 83% showed evidence of being entangled in fishing gear at least once.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that since 2017, 47% of all documented right whale deaths and serious injuries were due to entanglements in fishing gear. And we’re expected to believe that despite all those balls of rope and traps left on our shore, with the ocean floor covered in gear, right whales only magically become entangled in Canadian gear.

There should be a $1,000 refundable deposit on each new lobster trap purchase.

Carl Wilcox
New Gloucester

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