$10 million for Right Whale Research, Additional Funding for Maine Lobster Industry & Fisheries Signed into Law

The bill will provide critical support for Maine’s coastal economies and directs NOAA to act on a range of fisheries priorities

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, announced that provisions she authored to support Maine’s lobster industry and fisheries, as well as the National Sea Grant Program and other ocean research efforts, have been signed into law.  Earlier this year, Senator Collins took to the Senate floor to discuss the urgent need to address challenges facing Maine’s lobster industry.


“Maine’s fishermen have been careful stewards of our natural resources for generations,” said Senator Collins.  “This critical funding will build on their efforts by investing in our coastal communities and in the health of ocean ecosystems.  This legislation also includes provisions I fought for that will support the lobster industry, which supports the livelihoods of thousands of hardworking Mainers.”


The fiscal year (FY) 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) funding bill allocates $73.33 billion, which is $9.15 billion more than last year’s funding level.  Provisions championed by Senator Collins to benefit Maine include:


·         National Sea Grant Program: The bill includes $74 million for the National Sea Grant Program.  Senator Collins has long worked to provide and protect funding for the National Sea Grant Program and was key in securing funding in the FY 2019 appropriations bill, which distributed funding awards earlier this year to advance our understanding of the American lobster and support a regional lobster extension program.  In April, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group of Senators in rejecting the Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the National Sea Grant Program.


o   Lobster Research: Within the funding for Sea Grant, $2 million is included to support Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank American lobster research priorities.  This research will focus on stock resilience in the face of environmental changes, including life history parameters, distribution and abundance, and species interactions, with the purpose of informing future management decisions. It will also support research to help overcome reduced availability of lobster bait.


·         Right Whales: The bill includes $10 million for right whale related research, an increase of $2 million, and directs National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to work with the Canadian government to reduce risks throughout its range. Such efforts include, but are not limited to, continued collaboration on surveillance, cooperative research on the distribution of the whales and their food sources, and coordinated gear marking efforts across jurisdictions.  Furthermore, the bill urges NOAA to prioritize the development of long-term tagging methods for right whales, which would enable scientists to better track the whales’ location and distribution. Additionally, the bill directs NOAA to fully evaluate the feasibility and economic implications of any management actions relating to the North Atlantic right whale and requires the agency to incorporate into its rulemaking recent research on the species’ primary food source (which has been shown to be decreasing in abundance in the eastern Gulf of Maine).


·         Gray Zone: The bill encourages NOAA to work with Canadian and state fishery officials to develop a cooperative fisheries management plan for the gray zone.  At a Commerce Subcommittee hearing in April, Senator Collins urged senior administration officials to work to find an agreement with Canada on fishing gray zones.