Governor Mills Announces Maine Granted Intervenor Status in Lawsuit Challenging Federal Regulations Hurting Maine’s Vital Lobster Industry

December 30, 2021

Governor Janet Mills announced today that the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has been granted intervenor status in Maine Lobstermen’s Association v National Marine Fisheries Service, a lawsuit before the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. that challenges Federal regulations hurting Maine’s vital lobster industry. It is the Mills Administration’s latest effort to stand up for the lobster industry and its hard working men and women in the face of the Federal government’s burdensome proposal.

“There’s never been a known right whale mortality associated with the Maine lobster fishery, and there have been zero known right whale entanglements associated with Maine lobster gear in almost two decades. Despite these facts and regardless of our lobster industry’s proven commitment to conservation, the National Marine Fisheries Service has pushed forward with regulations that will be devastating to our lobster industry and to our way of life,” said Governor Mills. “Maine cares about protecting the endangered right whale, but the Federal government’s regulations must be based in sound science and should account for conservation measures already taken by our fishery. I am glad my Administration has been granted intervenor status by the Court so we can make our case.”

In Maine Lobstermen’s Association v National Marine Fisheries Servicethe Maine Lobstermen’s Association asserts that the National Marine Fisheries Service’s new Biological Opinion, released in May, is unlawful. The plaintiffs argue that NMFS acted arbitrarily by failing to rely on the best available scientific information and by failing to account for the positive impact of conservation measures already adopted by the Maine lobster fishery.

“Over decades, the Maine lobster fishery has adopted strong conservation measures to protect right whales. The result of this longstanding commitment should not be ignored by federal regulators,”said Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “The Maine lobster fishery has proven its commitment to conservation, but these new standards threaten its future and jeopardize a cornerstone of our state’s economy.”

In September, under the Governor’s direction, DMR also filed and was granted intervenor status in Center for Biological Diversity v. Ross, a lawsuit also before the U.S. District Court, which, if decided in the plaintiff’s favor, could close Maine’s lobster fishery altogether.

The Governor has also opposed NOAA Fisheries’ seasonal closure of a part of Maine’s lobster fishery. She joined Maine’s Congressional Delegation in urging Secretary Raimondo to use her authorities to immediately resolve the many shortcomings of NOAA’s rule and also urged Secretary Raimondo to reduce the unnecessary economic harm to Maine fishermen.

Last year, she wrote to the Commerce Department urging it to deny a petition by Pew Charitable Trusts that asks for three seasonal offshore closures in the Gulf of Maine and that would prohibit the use of vertical lines in the American lobster and Jonah crab fisheries in four areas of the New England coast. She also filed comments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the draft Biological Opinion for ten fishery management plans in the Greater Atlantic Region, focusing on the North Atlantic Right Whale, expressing “grave concern” and warning it will be economically devastating and will fundamentally change Maine’s lobster fishery.