Driving through and around Belfast on Sunday, I was struck by the half-dozen or so desolated chicken farms. In my youth, Waldo County’s poultry business had gone belly-up. But it seemed more poignant now. Maybe it was because I’ve been stewing over the threat Maine lobster’s industry today faces from an unholy alliance of the federal government and out-of-state special interest groups.

Killing Maine’s iconic lobster-fishery is both immoral and unnecessary.

Unlike Waldo County’s chicken industry, which in the late 1970s and early 1980s succumbed to competition from Arkansas and Delaware, it is not market forces that Maine lobstermen fear so much as boycotts and excessive regulation based on unproven science.

The recent “red-listing” of the Maine lobster by the California-based Seafood Watch drew a lot of ire from Mainers this month, and with good reason. Seafood Watch’s claim — that the Maine lobster fishery further endangers the last 300 right whales left on Earth — is drawn from faraway assumptions that have little to do with the realities of the Gulf of Maine. But it sounds cool, right?

A right whale hasn’t been entangled in Maine lobster-fishing gear since 2004, and even then it was released without harm. Since then, Maine’s lobstermen have born the costs of various retrofittings of their gear to make it easier for whales to escape ensnarement. Moreover, the krill on which right whales feed is moving further out into the Gulf anyway, so the whales’ paths are becoming more of a straight shot from Nantucket to Newfoundland.

As if on cue, we’re suddenly hearing in the news about the tragic case of an ensnared whale calf off Nantucket named Snowcone. Somehow we’re able to hand-ring about Snowcone frantically but no one seems able to go out there and untangle her. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” the saying goes.

Whales are being harmed, but overwhelmingly if not exclusively by ship strikes or Canadian fishing gear. Oddly, the gentle Canadians are far less conscientious about their whale-friendly gear than we are. Yet Maine fishermen are being asked to pick up their slack.

With each passing year, the federal government is further reducing where and when lobstermen can fish. The allowable risk of an entanglement for a lobsterman is 0.7. For the wind farms the feds are actively promoting off our coasts, the entanglement allowance is at least 20 times greater. Why is it OK for wind farms, which are attached to the ocean floor by a far more treacherous iron chain, to pose such risks but not for lobstermen?

Theodore Roosevelt once observed that hunters and fishermen make the best conservationists. His wisdom applies to our coastal waters, too. Lobstermen appreciate the need for biodiversity far more than the average American. They just don’t slap bumper stickers about it on their trucks. Instead they practice sound environmentalism through prudence in their daily work.

Somehow I can’t imagine this happening in the days of Olympia Snowe. She would have held up every nominee to the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior until the problems were solved. Today there is greater fear of the environmental extremists, who are less interested in real science than aggressively pursuing their agenda.

Our entire congressional delegation needs to be fighting the threats to our lobster industry like there’s no tomorrow. Each of our state’s 5,000 lobstermen (and women) supports a family and an exponential array of related businesses from packing to hospitality. It’s time to worry less about the deep-pocketed and well-heeled environmental lobby — at least on this issue.

That is why I was surprised to hear that North Haven resident and First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree appears to have skipped this year’s Maine Lobster Festival last month. No one I talked to saw her there. When I contacted her office to confirm if she had or had not attended, they did not respond. The festival had been postponed for two years because of COVID-19 and now that the vise is tightening of lobstermen, it would seem like our elected representatives would want to be boosting the industry’s morale.

The blight left by a crushed chicken industry still has not gone away even three to four decades later. Allowing the Maine lobster industry to be ground into dust by radical environmentalists and out-of-touch bureaucrats would be less easily forgiven.

Let’s hope everyone starts fighting harder on this one.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.