A federal judge in Maine last weekend blocked a seasonal closure to traditional lobstering in part of the Gulf of Maine on grounds that the science used to justify the closure was flimsy at best. But scientists argue that the opposite is true, and federal officials have suggested that the judge’s ruling might not be the win for Maine’s lobster fishery that industry members think it is.

The hotly contested closure, which was slated to go into effect last Monday, would have banned traditional lobster fishing in a lucrative, 967-square-mile stretch of the Gulf of Maine for three months out of the year in an attempt to save the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from extinction.

Overhead view of a northern Atlantic right whale with propeller scars from interactions with boat...Overhead view of a northern Atlantic right whale with propeller scars from interactions with boats. Boat strikes and rope tangles are a frequent hazard for the endangered species of marine mammals. Credit: NOAA

Lobster industry professionals, elected officials and now a federal judge have expressed doubts as to whether the National Marine Fisheries Service used the best available science in imposing the closure, and whether the whales even frequent the area. They all argue that the statistical modeling used by federal regulators leaves much to be desired.

Sean Todd, a marine biologist and director of Allied Whale, a marine mammal research group located at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, disagrees with both the decision to block the closure and the claim that there are insufficient data to justify it.

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