It is too easy for federal regulators to dismiss the importance of the Maine lobster fishing industry when handing down regulations to protect endangered right whales.

While the plight of this species is important, the needs of the whales should be balanced with the needs of Maine’s communities and economy.

Looking at catch alone, the lobster industry has brought in as much as $725 million in a year. However, those of us who live on the coast know a lot more is at stake than that. Consider the businesses affected by this industry. In Rockland, Rockport, Camden and surrounding towns of Knox County, how many people are engaged in boatbuilding and servicing, gear and bait sales, trucking and freezing operations, retail sales of seafood and all the work that goes into maintaining a working waterfront?

Yet it goes beyond that. When you have an industry this linked to the very culture of our community, the implications of damaging it are far-reaching.

Fishermen around here buy cars and more often trucks. They support local stores and restaurants. Even if they do not always buy the newspaper, the businesses they keep afloat buy the ads that keep us going, so full disclosure, we feel we have some skin in the game here.

The fact is, Maine does not have another billion-dollar industry it can just take down from the shelf when NOAA and federal regulators decide to go with a knee-jerk reaction to a challenged species. In the long run, the collapse of Maine’s economy is not going to provide for responsible long-term environmental management and best practices on the water.

Setting all of that aside, two other issues have not been disposed of in this discussion. The first is that the case has not been made that the lobster industry is one of the key players in the right whale problem. More study and a measured approach should be used to determine exactly where the whales are and what impact our local fishing is having on them, if any.

The fact that the stakes are high does not provide an excuse for the scientists involved to skip their homework. If you want to destroy an industry with these regulations, provide the evidence to back your claims. No ifs, ands or buts will be accepted.

The other issue is one of basic fairness. We have not decided to shut down all shipping in the Atlantic, even though ship strikes are a leading cause of whale deaths, so why is Maine’s lobster industry so easy to sacrifice? Clearly, there are cases where the government weighs the needs of industry.

Here in Maine, fishing is just as vital as shipping is to the rest of the nation.

Remember, election letters are due by Oct. 21

The drop-dead final deadline for any letters to the editor about this election is 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21. You can email them to editor@villagesoup.com.

Be sure to pick up your Oct. 20 editions of The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal for election preview stories.