Governor Janet Mills announced today that a federal judge has granted her Administration’s motion to intervene in the pending litigation Center for Biological Diversity v. Ross in the U.S. District Court in the D.C. Circuit.
“Intervening in this case is a critically important step in the state’s efforts to support Maine’s vital lobster industry,” said Governor Mills. “A court decision in the plaintiff’s favor could close Maine’s lobster fishery altogether – a completely unacceptable outcome that would be devastating to our lobstermen and their families and devastating to our coastal communities and our economy. We will fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening.”
The lawsuit contests the Federal government’s recently published regulation to protect North Atlantic Right Whales. It also amends and supplements a 2018 lawsuit which challenged the Federal government’s authority to regulate the lobster fishery by challenging the required Biological Opinion.
With the approval of the Office of Attorney General, the Mills Administration has contracted with the law firm Nossaman LLP to represent the State of Maine as an intervenor in this lawsuit. Nossaman attorneys have extensive experience litigating Endangered Species Act issues related to commercial fishing. The Governor is supporting the effort by funding the use of specialized outside counsel through the Governor’s Contingent Account.
“We worked closely with industry to develop approaches that would minimize the hardship to fishermen, and through that effort, informed the rulemaking process, but the battle for this industry is also being waged on multiple fronts,” said Commissioner of Marine Resources Patrick Keliher. “We are committed to making sure we have the legal expertise and resources necessary to capably represent the interests of Maine’s lobster industry in this pivotal court fight.”
Last week, Governor Mills sent a letter Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo urging swift action by NOAA Fisheries to reduce the unnecessary economic harm to Maine fishermen that the recently announced Federal whale protection rule will cause.
Governor Mills has repeatedly stood up for Maine’s vital lobster industry and its working men and women in the face of the Federal government’s right whale proposal. 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.