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Senator Collins Blocks Expedited Confirmation of NOAA Nominee to Pressure Agency to Listen to Maine Lobstermen, Follow the Science

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ remarks.  

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ remarks.


Washington, D.C.—In a continuation of her advocacy on behalf of Maine’s lobster industry that has been unfairly targeted by NOAA’s burdensome right whale rule, U.S. Senator Susan Collins rejected a unanimous consent request to confirm a top NOAA official.  Senator Collins’ decision to block Jainey Kumar Bavishi to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere comes in response to the agency’s refusal to modify its unworkable Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP) that has harmed Maine’s hardworking lobstermen and women.  The action is intended to pressure NOAA to be more responsive to the Maine lobster industry and to pay closer attention to the agency’s own data showing that the Maine fishery has never been linked to a right whale death.  Senator Collins also highlighted the troubling fact that NOAA’s actions conflict with recommendations from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.


An excerpt of Senator Collins’ remarks from the Senate floor is below.  Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ full remarks.


“NOAA is imposing onerous, possibly impossible, new regulations that do not reflect the reality in the Gulf of Maine with regard to the right whale…NOAA denied an entirely reasonable request to at least delay the implementation of these onerous new regulations for just two months, until July 1. The entire delegation plus our governor asked for this delay, this two month delay, because our lobstermen cannot even find enough of the gear, the new gear that is being mandated by NOAA. Just a two month delay would have helped to prevent huge losses to these small business owners.  This really is outrageous, and the industry is expected to lose out on $7 million due to lost fishing time during these two months.

“Denying this two month extension conflicted with the recommendations of the United States Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, an independent voice for small business within the federal government. The Office of Advocacy asserted that NOAA was putting lobstermen and women in ‘an impossible scenario,’ and went on to say, ‘if they are not granted a short delay of the compliance deadline, they may stand to lose significant amounts of revenue or in some instances, their entire business.’


“We have had countless meetings with the Department of Commerce, with NOAA.  I met with the [NOAA Administrator]. I asked for his help.  He promised to work with us. Instead, things have gotten only worse. And now our lobster industry worries that NOAA will continue to steadily whittle away at their livelihoods while ignoring not only their on-the-water expertise, the expertise of the State of Maine, but the impartial advice of the federal government's small business advocate as well.


The entire agency, all of NOAA, needs to recognize that the practice of implementing management decisions based on incomplete, imprecise, inaccurate data, especially when those decisions have a harmful effect on a fishery that is known for its conservation methods and on the communities that this fishery has supported forever in the State of Maine, cannot continue. So that's the situation in which we find ourselves, and that is why—I believe for the first time in all the years that I've served in the Senate—I have come to the floor to object when the unanimous consent request is made.


The Maine Delegation and Governor Mills have been steadfastly opposed to undue burdens that would threaten the lobster fishery without meaningfully protecting whales.  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, and in February 2022 called for a postponement of the rule due to difficulties lobstermen were having obtaining the necessary gear.




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