By Sheila Dassatt

        My last article was primarily speaking about the issues that are coming up in our fishery.  Since that article, the NOAA Whale Rules have been introduced, which is closing a very vital part of Area1 off the Gulf of Maine from October to January. This ruling has been a complete surprise to most, as it wasn’t even discussed prior to the announcement.

        We have a letter inspired by Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor, that has been addressed to President Biden asking to rescind this ruling.  It was also signed by Maine Senators and Representatives in large scale.  The best part of this letter is that it was signed by Republicans, Democrats and Independents!  This was in complete unison, which is a step in the right direction.  Thank you to all that participated in this letter.  Now, let’s see how it all goes from here.

        The common belief is that this area has been earmarked for future windmill projects. Is this so?  I guess we all need to be somewhat patient to see what we receive for a reply.

        For one thing, in order to fish in this designated area, you need to put in for a permit to use ropeless gear. This has not even been perfected in long term use, and is still in the beginning stages of development.  How can this be used before it has been proven to be effective as far as the expense, the policing of it for the Marine Patrol and the technology that is involved with this equipment?

        Please don’t take me wrong, but we, as fishermen and women, do not want to be too eager to comply with this stuff that is being pushed on us.  To comply is to not make our feelings and needs known.  In a perfect world, “ideally” the folks that are setting these rules and working to save the whales only see it one way.  “Ideally” they want to push their agenda and I don’t think that anything that we can say or do will change their minds.

        We have testified how dangerous these rules can be for the fisherman, such as too many traps on a trawl, which can make it dangerous on a smaller vessel.  This also limit’s the area that can be fished within the trawl limits and requirements.  Even the smaller vessels may need to set triples in order to reduce vertical lines in the water.

        Testimony has gone in concerning the expense of the changes that need to be made to the gear in order to make it all whale compliant.  This is a lot of extra work and expense. With the new ruling, it doesn’t even give ample time to make the necessary changes to the ropes and gear.

        My question is, why is Maine being targeted during the time of the year that most make their living in this area?  Please, we need more answers than we have been receiving.  Is there anyone out there that can help us get the word out to the rest of the country as an awareness like never before?  How many people have been to Maine on a vacation and enjoyed having a lobster dinner?  This is what we are known for and have always had this image for generations.  When you cross the border coming into Maine, the signs say, “The Way Life Should Be.” We know there is a lot of compassion for our great state and we are reaching out for it as we speak.  Please, if you have ideas or suggestions for getting the support that we need, please send your ideas along to us. My e-mail is  Feel free to contact me at any time as this is very important to all of us.

        Please don’t misunderstand me, the Maine Fisherman has worked for years to help save the whales and keep them from extinction.  We are not the enemy, nor have we ever been.  There are a lot more circumstances concerning the whales than just our fishermen, such as ship strikes and other things that are out of our hands.  We need to make this awareness known and work together with these issues.

        We do not want to see our way of life disappear and not be able to continue tradition for the next generations to come.  I do not want to sound like a broken record, but how many of us are fourth and fifth generation of fishing families out there?  One day, I’d like to ask folks to share pictures of their grandparents and great-grandparents that taught us along the way.  We are very proud of these folks, as they are the ones that set our conservation measures that we still enforce to this day.  We are also very proud to share our knowledge and conservation methods with the newcomers.  There is a great amount of Heritage involved here…let’s join together to the best of our ability!  Remember the old saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Take care and stay safe.