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Maine Delegation Urges Commerce Secretary to Protect Lobster Fishery

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden have sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, urging her to ensure that the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Rule does not include last minute changes that would significantly harm the livelihoods of communities that depend on fishing and lobstering without meaningfully protecting whales. In their letter, the Maine Delegation emphasize that many measures have been crafted after years of negotiation and careful consultation with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to protect the coastal Maine communities that rely on the lobster fishery. The Delegation specifically cites potential changes to regulations on gear marking, closures of valuable fishing areas, and enforcing dangerous one-size-fits-all approaches on gear configurations as risks that could endanger livelihoods and safety for Maine’s lobstering communities.


“We are getting in touch with you once again about the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS’s) Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Rule (RIN: 0648-BJ09), the finalization of which we understand to be imminent,” wrote the Delegation. “We are grateful for your previous engagement with us over our concerns about this new regulation’s ability to meaningfully protect whales and its impact on those who depend on fishing, especially lobstering, for their livelihoods. We are now asking for your assistance to avoid hasty, late-breaking changes by NMFS to measures that have been extensively negotiated and carefully designed in consultation with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and broad outreach to stakeholders. These changes, as indicated by the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), add significant costs to the industry without corresponding gains in conservation and seriously undermine conservation partnerships at state and local levels.


“As you know, this rule builds on over two decades of collaborative whale conservation efforts and is the specific product of massive stakeholder input and data analysis in recent months and years,” the Delegation continued. “Despite this long timeline and vast effort, we and many of our constituents are deeply concerned about three specific elements of the rule, which we have outlined below. We have also shared these views with Shalanda Young, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and we urge you to direct NMFS staff to engage with their counterparts at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to ensure this opportunity for good public policy making and consideration of informed public comment is not squandered in the midnight hour.”


The Maine Delegation has been steadfastly opposed to undue burdens that would threaten the lobster fishery – an important economic driver for Maine – without meaningfully protecting whales. The Delegation has urged President Joe Biden to act on his pledge to protect lobstermen’s livelihoods, citing the lack of data to support claims that the lobster fishery presents an extreme risk to whales compared to other marine activities such as ship strikes.


The Maine Delegation’s full letter can be downloaded HERE or read below: