Below is a joint press release issued today by the Maine delegation and Governor Mills on a regulatory pause for Maine's lobster industry in the omnibus appropriations bill that is expected to pass this week. We will continue to provide updates as this issue progresses.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2022
Maine Delegation, Governor Mills Announce Lifeline for Maine’s Lobster Industry Secured in Government Funding Package
The regulatory pause was authored by Sens. Collins, King and Reps. Pingree, Golden and supported by Governor Mills
Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, and Governor Janet Mills announced that they were successful in securing a regulatory pause for Maine’s lobster industry in the omnibus appropriations bill that is expected to pass the Senate and House this week.
“Maine’s lobstermen and women have long demonstrated their commitment to maintaining and protecting a sustainable fishery in the Gulf of Maine. They have invested in countless precautionary measures to protect right whales, including removing more than 30,000 miles of line from the water and switching to weaker rope to prevent whales from being entangled. And the fact is— there has never been a right whale death attributed to Maine lobster gear,” said the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills. “Despite our industry’s good stewardship and compliance with NMFS’ most recent regulations to protect right whales, our lobstermen and women are now faced with further punitive regulations that will not meaningfully protect the right whale, but will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Maine families and small businesses.
“We have always said that we will pursue any and all policy solutions to protect our hardworking lobstermen and women along Maine’s coast,” they continued. “Our provision, which relies upon the expertise of the professionals at the Maine Department of Marine Resources, was included in the government funding bill released this morning. It will enable our lobster fishery to continue to operate while still complying with NMFS’ most recent right whale rule. Without our provision, Maine’s iconic industry could be facing a complete shutdown—and the ripple effects across our state would have been widespread.”
Although there has never been a right whale death attributed to Maine lobster gear, misguided environmental groups have been seeking actions that would end lobstering in Maine, all based on the theoretical possibility that a right whale could be killed.
The provision is a simple compromise that would protect the livelihoods of the men and women who make their living from one of the best managed and sustainable fisheries on earth.
Specifically, the provision in the omnibus:
- Deems the current right whale rules sufficient to ensure the continued operation of the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries for six years (through December 31, 2028).
- Provide that new regulations for the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries would take effect in six years (by December 31, 2028).
- 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 Mills have been steadfastly opposed to undue burdens that would threaten the lobster fishery without meaningfully protecting whales. Following the release of the final rule in late August 2021, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills issued a statement in opposition to the rule and highlighting the Maine lobster fishery’s record of repeatedly making significant improvements to their practices and modifications to their gear to protect right whales. In October 2021, they wrote to Secretary Raimondo to urge her to rescind the rule, and in February 2022 called for a postponement of the rule due to difficulties lobstermen were having obtaining the necessary gear.