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Maine Delegation Secures $17.1 Million to Support Jobs in Maine’s Lobster Industry

The funding will help to address the impacts of the harmful right whale rule, provide direct payments to fishermen to help cover costs of compliance, and support vital research

Also included are congressional directives for NOAA to assess the economic impact of the right whale rule, engage Canada on its outsized role in right whale decline, and monitor movement of the species’ primary food source


Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden announced today that $17,065,000 to support Maine’s lobster industry was included in the Fiscal Year 2022 Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.  Senator Collins is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee.  Representative Pingree is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairs the Interior and Environment Subcommittee.


The omnibus funding package passed the House and the Senate and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.


“NOAA’s own data show that the Maine fishery has never been linked to a right whale death, and the record clearly demonstrates that ship strikes and Canadian fishing activities are major contributors to right whale mortalities,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden.  “Maine lobstermen and women have always been good stewards of the environment and have taken numerous actions to protect right whales when the science has warranted it.  That’s why it is extremely frustrating that they have been targeted by the deeply flawed and unfair Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Rule.  We strongly advocated for this funding, which will support our state’s iconic lobster industry by helping to cover the costs incurred by lobstermen as a result of the misguided rule, engaging stakeholders in the local and regional seafood systems, and improving the incomplete and imprecise science upon which the federal government relies.”


“The Maine lobster industry faces an uncertain future as a result of onerous federal regulations that are not based on sound science,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.  “MLA is grateful for the delegation’s efforts to secure this important funding and for their recognition that the government’s flawed plan should be revised so that it protects whales without eliminating the lobster fishery.”


“This funding comes at a critical time, as Maine’s lobster industry faces challenges from both an uncertain future and the looming May 1 implementation date,” said Pat Keliher, Maine DMR Commissioner. “Support for improved science will also ensure more targeted regulations in the future which will have better conservation benefits for whales, and less unintended consequences for Maine fishermen.”


The funding championed by the Maine Delegation includes:


  •  $14 million to help the lobster industry comply with new regulations.  This funding was included in the CJS Appropriations bill and will cover costs paid for by the lobster industry to comply with the final rule to modify the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, including gear modification, configuration, and marking requirements, which are currently set to take effect in May 2022.  Senator Collins and Representative Golden recently introduced the SAFE SEAS Act, co-sponsored by Senator King and Representative Pingree, which would authorize such assistance for the next two fiscal years.


  •  $765,000 to help the lobster industry plan for the future.  This process would engage with and prepare stakeholders on ways to preserve the industry in the face of burdensome right whale-related regulations, which are having far-reaching impacts across Maine’s coastal communities and economy.  Planning for the future is critical to the economic survival and resilience of Maine’s coastal economy as well as the future of the right whale species. This initiative, to be led by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, is supported by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, the Southern Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.  Senator Collins and King and Representative Pingree secured this funding as part of Congress’ return to congressionally directed spending in Fiscal Year 2022.


  • $2 million in vital Sea Grant lobster and right whale-related research, monitoring, and conservation efforts. This funding will spur partnerships among industry, state agencies, and research institutions toward developing operational technologies that will help the lobster industry in the Gulf of Maine.


  •  $300,000 to improve scientific understanding of right whale migration patterns. This funding would support a continuous plankton recorder survey to better track the movement of right whales’ primary food source, which is a strong indicator of the whales’ migration patterns.  The National Marine Fisheries Service’s own data support the conclusion that right whales are traversing offshore waters of the Gulf of Maine less and less frequently as waters warm and the species’ primary food source moves further offshore and northward into colder Canadian waters.


Furthermore, Senator Collins secured instructions to NOAA to complete an assessment and cumulative estimate of any economic losses incurred by the lobster industry that are directly related to the final rule;  to work with Canada to develop risk reduction measures that are comparable in effectiveness for both fisheries and vessels; to conduct a continuous plankton recorder survey to better track the movement of right whales’ primary food source; and to work with Canada on a cooperative management plan for the Gray Zone.




The Maine Delegation and Governor Janet Mills have been steadfastly opposed to the rule and have worked to lessen the burdens it will impose on the industry. Following the release of the final rule in late August 2021, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills issued a statement in opposition to the rule and highlighting the Maine lobster fishery’s record of repeatedly making significant improvements to their practices and modifications to their gear to protect right whales.  In October 2021, they wrote to Secretary Raimondo to urge her to rescind the rule.  In February 2022, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills urged Secretary Raimondo to postpone the May 1st deadline.  



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