Senator Collins urged Secretary Raimondo to hold Canada Accountable for Right Whale Entanglements and Vessel Strikes
Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, spoke with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo about the importance of protecting Maine’s lobster industry from burdensome, unfair, and unsafe regulations.
Senator Collins thanked Secretary Raimondo for recently meeting with Maine’s congressional delegation to discuss potential federal regulations associated with the decline of the North Atlantic right whale population. She emphasized that over the years, Maine’s lobstermen and women have taken numerous actions to protect right whales when the science has warranted it. Consequently, Senator Collins said, “there has not been a single right whale serious injury or mortality attributed to Maine lobster fisheries since 2002.”
“On the other hand, NOAA’s data show that from 2008 to 2018, there were 13 confirmed cases of right whales entangled in Canadian snow crab gear,” Senator Collins continued. “And since 2017, there have been at least seven right whales that have been killed by Canadian vessel strikes. Is the Department beginning to discuss with its Canadian fisheries counterparts and regulators how to hold them accountable for their outsized role that is contributing to the population decline of the right whale?”
“I really admire your advocacy in this regard,” Secretary Raimondo responded. “The thing that stuck with me most from our conversations in this is when you said to me, ‘You should consider the fact that there are 5,000 small businesses that are in the lobster fishery in Maine.’ And that stuck with me, which is to say, putting 5,000 small businesses at risk is something that we need to take with real seriousness.”
Secretary Raimondo assured Senator Collins that following their recent meeting, the Department has increased their engagement with their Canadian counterparts, particularly with respect to two issues: “One is to make sure the applicable Canadian fisheries have regulations that are frankly, as tough as ours,” Secretary Raimondo said. “And secondly, looking into vessel speeds. And this year, NOAA Fisheries collected comments on our assessment of the current vessel speed rule.”