Lawmakers argue February 19th deadline provides insufficient time for lobstermen and other stakeholders to read and assess 1,000 pages of material, including new data and model
WASHINGTON — Maine’s congressional delegation this week asked the federal agency in charge of managing the nation’s fisheries to extend its public comment period on its draft Biological Opinion (BiOp) on ten fishery management plans in the Greater Atlantic Region.
The BiOp is an assessment of a federal agency’s impact on an endangered species. In this case, the BiOp assesses the effectiveness of regulations that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has imposed on the Maine lobster fishery to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale. Maine lobstermen have already taken significant steps to protect the right whale, despite there being no direct evidence that a single right whale serious injury or mortality has been attributable to the Gulf of Maine or Georges Bank lobster fishery since 2004. During this same time period, however, 16 entanglements have been documented and attributed to Canadian fisheries.
“The ramifications of this BiOp and the recently proposed take reduction rule are immense,” wrote Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02). “We believe, however, that providing a modest, additional amount of time for review and analysis of the BiOp by stakeholders will help to ensure that future regulatory actions on the fishery are effective and fully informed by those who know the most about it.”
The congressional delegation asked that the deadline be moved 10 days to March 1, 2021. Lobstermen, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and other stakeholders have been given just over a month to analyze over 1,000 pages of new material and data.
Moving the deadline “would help ensure that DMR can effectively utilize staff resources and provide NOAA Fisheries with the thorough analysis and comments that this significant federal action deserves. This extension will also provide lobstermen—the majority of whom spend their days out on the water—with additional time to understand and comment on the more than one thousand pages of material that, when finalized, may drastically impact their livelihoods,” the Maine lawmakers continued.
Read a copy of the letter here.