By Bill Shields

PLYMOUTH (CBS) – Scott Irwin was getting a little stir-crazy Tuesday. He decided to go ahead and load his lobster traps on his boat in Plymouth Harbor, even though the state is delaying setting traps until May 16. “I don’t see a future in lobstering in a few years,” Irwin said. “They’re picking us off slowly.”

The state already prohibits lobstermen from setting their traps from February 1 until May. It’s to protect the endangered right whales, which congregate in Cape Cod Bay during that time.

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Lobster boats in Plymouth Harbor (WBZ-TV)

Right now, there are an estimated 75 right whales in the bay, mostly south of Boston Harbor and the whales frequently get tangled in lobster trap lines.

“It takes anywhere from two, three or four weeks to set your traps, to get them in the ocean,” says John Haviland of the South Shore Lobster Fishermen’s Association. “Any type of delay is delaying your first paycheck.”

The whales usually head north this time of year, but if they remain in Cape Cod Bay, the delay could be extended.

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Lobster (WBZ-TV)

The state is only delaying the lobstermen south of Boston Harbor. Up north, they are setting traps. “I feel that they shouldn’t be able to fish north if we can’t fish down south,” said lobsterman Seth Oehme.

Already, the price of lobsters on the South Shore has skyrocketed with most wholesalers getting their lobsters from Canada.

“We’re paying a higher price for lobsters,” said Jay Kimball of Wood’s Seafood in Plymouth. “If I could buy from the local guys they would be out in the morning, by two o’clock in the afternoon they would bring me their catch, they’d be in my tank at a substantially, at a lesser price than what I’m paying for Canada now.”

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If the delay is longer than May 16, it becomes a massive problem for the fishermen because the lobsters will soon start to molt and go into hiding.

Bill Shields