Senator Collins: “[H]ow can the industry trust that NOAA's not going to regulate them out of existence given that the agency has rejected recommendations from the SBA's Office of Advocacy…an independent office within the SBA…?”
Click HERE to watch Sen. Collins’ Q&A with Secretary Raimondo.
Washington, D.C.—At a Senate Appropriations hearing featuring testimony from Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Senator Susan Collins again expressed her strong opposition to the unfair and onerous Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP). In addition to creating a significant financial burden for lobstermen and women, the rule is mandating the purchase of gear that is scarce or nonexistent due to persistent supply chain issues.
Senator Collins has strongly opposed the rule from its inception. In March, after NOAA had moved forward with the rule, Senator Collins joined Governor Janet Mills and the rest of the Maine Delegation in requesting a two-month delay to give Maine lobstermen and women more time to comply. Rather than granting this reasonable request, NOAA chose to gradually enforce the rule instead.
“May 1st marked the first day of the implementation of these regulations. It was a dark day for the industry,” said Senator Collins. “Now, I know that NOAA has announced a graduated enforcement approach, but that is a very small comfort. The industry estimates that it will lose $7 million in lost fishing time that would have been saved by just granting that two-month extension.”
Senator Collins went on to quote from a report by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, which asserted that NOAA was putting lobster men and women in “an impossible scenario.” Furthermore, the report stated that if lobstermen and women 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.”
“Each of Maine's more than 4,500 commercial lobstermen and women are small, self-employed business owners,” Senator Collins continued. “That's why the SBA advocated for them. But NOAA totally ignored what the SBA asked for, in reinforcing what the industry, the entire Delegation, and the Governor also requested.”
In light of reports that NOAA is considering imposing further regulations on the industry, Senator Collins asked Secretary Raimondo: “[H]ow can the industry trust that NOAA's not going to regulate them out of existence given that the agency has rejected recommendations from the SBA's Office of Advocacy, not just those of us who represent the state, but an independent office within the SBA, another federal agency?”
Secretary Raimondo responded that the head of NOAA Fisheries is in regular contact with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and they are working to find suppliers who can provide the required gear for an affordable price.
Secretary Raimondo continued by saying that NOAA’s enforcement goal is to be as “lenient as we can to assist with compliance, instead of a gotcha sort of approach.” She also said that her Department expects to distribute $14 million by the end of June to help alleviate the cost of compliance for Maine lobstermen and women. Senator Collins secured this funding in the government funding legislation that was signed into law in March.