Petition for rulemaking could increase risk to right whales, deprive Maine lobstermen of millions in revenue
WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02), Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) today urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reject a petition to impose seasonal closures on lobster and crab fishing in three areas in and around the Gulf of Maine.
While the suggested closures — put forward by the Pew Charitable Trusts — are intended to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale, the delegation notes in their letter that such action could in fact increase the risk to the endangered whales, as well as deprive Maine’s lobstering communities of significant revenue at an already challenging time for the lobster industry.
“We are writing to express our strong opposition to the petition for rulemaking that was recently submitted by the Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew), for interim regulations to protect the North Atlantic right whale,” wrote the delegation. “The short-sighted petition submitted by Pew not only undermines our shared goal of protecting the North Atlantic right whale, but it would also have a detrimental economic impact on Maine’s lobster industry and the coastal communities it supports.”
Pew’s petition calls for closures to three areas in the Gulf of Maine: of one area Downeast from August 1 to October 31, and another in the Western Gulf of Maine from May 1 to July 31. The third proposed closure, which encompasses large portions of the Lobster Management Area 1, would be in effect from October 1 through April 30.
In their letter, the Maine lawmakers point to NOAA Fisheries data demonstrating that Pew’s proposal would likely increase the risk to right whales because it would heavily concentrate vertical lines just outside of closed areas. Further, the letter counters the petition’s claim that economic impacts from the closures would be minimal. Landing revenues from just one of the targeted areas are estimated to be $18.8 million between May and October.
The delegation’s effort follows a letter sent by Governor Janet Mills late last week, which also expressed opposition to Pew’s petition.
Read the delegation’s letter to the Commerce Secretary here.