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LISTEN: Saving Right Whales From Extinction While Protecting Lobstermen’s Livelihoods

NOAA Permit #932-1905

The tension between protecting the environment and people’s livelihoods is on full display in the new documentary “Entangled,” a film that focuses on one of the world’s most endangered species – the North Atlantic right whale – and the lobster industry, which is the most valuable fishery in North America.

The right whales could go extinct in the next 20 years. Fewer than 400 remain. Scientists say the whales’ biggest threat is entanglement in lobster fishing lines, and it’s been accelerated by climate change – a dynamic covered in “Entangled.”

Warming oceans have sent right whales farther north to feed. Between 2017 and 2020, an unusually high number of whales were found dead, particularly in Canadian water, where they had rarely been seen and fishing regulations to protect them were historically not in place.

Federal scientists say the only way to save the whales is to change the way New England lobstermen fish. But they've struggled to reach an agreement. In 2019, Maine lobstermen backed out of a pact to reduce the number of trap-ropes they use to fish by 50 percent.

Listen to the entire episode of NEXT here.

Morgan Springer is the host/producer for the weekly show NEXT and the New England News Collaborative, a ten-station consortium of public radio newsrooms. She joined WNPR in 2019. Before working at Connecticut Public Radio, Morgan was the news director at Interlochen Public Radio in northern Michigan, where she launched and co-hosted a weekly show Points North.

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