Maine’s tourism economy is under threat because of federal regulations imposed on the lobster industry to protect the right whale whose population is in decline. That was the message at a press conference held by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) in Portland this afternoon. The most recent count of right whales comes in at 400 of them.
It has been 18 years since right whales have been entangled in Maine lobstering gear according to state documentation. And in that incident, the right whale survived the entanglement said Patrice McCarron, Executive Director of MLA. Yet last year, the federal government released a ten year plan that imposes regulations on Maine lobstering that are not achievable. The federal government could then pull any lobstering permits from Maine lobstermen – marking the end of a iconic industry and a way of life in this state.
Maine is currently in Phase 1 of the ten year federal plan. It requires gear modification that use new breakable line. May 1 is the deadline to switch to this new breakable line. However, supply chain issues are complicating this requirement said Kevin Kelley, Director of Advancement for MLA. Some fishermen say they can’t get the required line at all.
For the hospitality industry extending from Kittery to Eastport, Maine lobster is the backbone of that coastal economy. The lobster industry contributes $1 billion to Maine’s economy annually. Without this backbone of the coastal economy, other businesses will leave the coast. “Tourists come to Maine to eat lobster and not chicken salad sandwiches,” said Kelley following the press conference.
MLA filed a lawsuit against the government last September 27th. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Washington D.C., challenges the federal government’s ten year plan that will all but eliminate the Maine lobster industry. The lawsuit says the ten year plan is “draconian” and “fundamentally flawed” .It is not based on science. The lawsuit is pending.