Right Whales Causing Delay for Catching Lobsters

For many, the spectacle of right whales that have been swimming so close to the South Shore is a majestic sight.

But for lobsterman, it is a sign that they will have to wait even longer to put their traps in the water.

May 1 is usually the first day they can set up their gear after a 3-month-long trap closure that is in place to protect whales.

However, with the endangered whales still there feeding, the state Division of Marine Fisheries is extending the closure by a week in part of Cape Cod Bay.

A survey from the air showed more than 100 whales along the South Shore. This means affected lobstermen will have to remain on shore until they have dispersed.

"It hurts everybody," said lobsterman Douglas Randall. "It’s not just the fisherman, but the markets, the gear makers and the people in the restaurants," Randall continued.

The owners of Haddad's Ocean Cafe in Marshfield are the masters of lobster with plenty of lobster items on the menu. But with local traps out of the water, they have to source their product from elsewhere.

"Without the local lobsters, the supply is not here, so we have to get them down from Canada," Mitch Haddad said.

"The quality isn't as good and the price is very high."

Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, said even once the closure is lifted, it may be awhile before lobstermen on the South Shore have product to sell because it can take them a long time to set up their gear.

Casoni also believes the nor’easters in March resulted in the whales coming later, which then makes it tough to wait as the weather gets warmer.

"It’s going to be up in the high 80's this week and it is going to be like picking a scab if they have to sit on the shore and watch," Casoni said.

Lobstermen also said the industry can be very territorial, which keeps them from setting up traps in an area outside of the closure.

The issue has some working on devices, such as a line-less lobster raft, that developers hope will allow lobstermen to protect the whales and their bottom line at the same time, but they are still in the testing phase.

As of right now, affected lobstermen can start putting in their gear on May 7th, but the state could choose to extend that or lift it earlier depending on when the whales disperse.

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