Maine Leaders Win Big for Lobstermen in Funding Package; MLA Weighs in, Too


Maine political leaders announced today they have secured a regulatory pause for Maine’s lobster industry in the omnibus appropriations bill that is expected to pass Congress this week.

The applicable provision includes:

(1)  Deems the current right whale rules sufficient to ensure the continued operations of the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries for six years – through December 31, 2028;  (2)  provides that new regulations for the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries would take effect in six years, by 12/31/2028, and, lastly, authorizes a new grant program that could fund innovative gear technologies and the monitoring necessary to support the dynamic management of fisheries.  Fishermen and other participants within the maritime industry would be eligible for this funding.

The Maine Delegation and Governor Janet T. Mills (D), the first woman governor of Maine, have been steadfastly opposed to undue burdens that would threaten the lobster fishery without meaningfully protecting whales.  Following the release of the final rules in late August 2021, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills issued a statement in opposition to the rule highlighting the Maine lobster fishery’s record of repeatedly makng significant improvements to their practices and modifications to their gear to protect right whales.  In October 2021, they wrote to Secretary Ramondo to urge her to rescind the rule and in February 2022 called for a postponement of the rule due to difficuties lobstermen were having obtaining the necessary gear.

“he Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) is encouraged that Congress recognizes that the federal rulemaking process intended to protect right whales is broken,” said Parice McCarron, Executive Director of the MLA in a press rlelease issued this afternoon by Kevin Kelly, Director of Advancement for the non-profit. “The NDational Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has shunned its statutory obligations and based its current unlawful plan to protect right whales on a “worst case scenario” that has already harmed, and could eventually eliminate Maine’s multi-generational lobstering heritage while doing nothing to reduce the unacceptably high number of right whale deaths occurring in Canadian waters and from vessel strikes.

The MLA press release continued:  “Congress is providing time to allow the lobster fishery to continue to operae while a new, lawful plan – based on realistic assumptions and the best scientific and commercial information – is developed without decimating the critical industry and the coastal and island communities that depend upon it.  The Maine lobster fishery is not driving the right whale population decline and the species cannot be saved by unlawfully overreguladting a fishery that, according to federal data, has never been linked with a right whale death.

“The rhetoric from national advocacy organizations claiming that this important legislation will lead to the ‘extinction’ of the right whale is contrary to undispued science, false and meant to serve only their fringe interests.  The right whale has persisted for decades since it was almost driven to extinction by commercial whaling and it will continue to do so while a new, lawful plan is developed that appropriaely addresses the actual risks to the species.

“MLA is incredibly grateful for the extraordinary efforts of the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills who worked to ensure that the most sustainable fishery in the world can continue to operate and to provide time for the development of a new, lawful plan.”