Message from DMR Commissioner Keliher About Recent Court Decision

April 10, 2020

Dear Maine lobster industry member,

It pains me to have to send you this message while you're dealing with the stress and challenges of COVID-19, and its impacts on you, your family, your crews, and your livelihood. By now you have heard that D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg has ruled against NOAA in a lawsuit regarding right whales, brought by a group of environmental organizations. The decision finds that NOAAs 2014 Biological Opinion violated the Endangered Species Act and is therefore invalid.

In all of the many industry meetings last year we focused on the federal rule making, and on trying to achieve the best outcome for Maine through that process. However, I also described the federal lawsuits as a "wild card", meaning it's hard to predict how lawsuits will impact future whale rules. I am afraid that's the case with this decision right now. Many of you have called or emailed asking about the timing and impacts of this decision. At this time they are still unknown, but may come very quickly.

Governor Mills shares my deep disappointment about the Courts decision, and we are currently reviewing it to determine what this means for Maine's lobster industry and what next steps Maine can take. To be clear, the Judges Decision does not impact your ability to fish at this time - Maine's lobster fishery remains open.

I know you have many questions and want answers, and frankly we are in the same boat. These answers will come in time as we determine what direction the judge will go. All I can ask, as hard as it will be, is to please be patient as we work with our legal team on determining our path forward. I will keep you posted as soon as there are new developments to share.

Again, I know this could not have come at a worse time. Please be safe.


Patrick Keliher Commissioner Maine Department of Marine Resource