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Senator Collins Secures Funding for Maine Lobster Industry, Fisheries Research and Management Efforts

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, announced that the full committee advanced the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) funding bill by a vote of 31-0.  The legislation includes provisions championed by Senator Collins to support Maine’s lobster industry and fisheries, as well as the National Sea Grant Program and other aquaculture research efforts.


“These investments will help us to better understand how the lobster stock is reacting to changing environmental conditions and ensure that Maine’s iconic industry that supports thousands of jobs continues to thrive.  Additionally, this bill supports ongoing efforts to solve the conflicting conservation measures between American and Canadian fisheries and ensure that Maine lobstermen are not unfairly targeted by regulations intended to protect the fragile right whale population,” said Senator Collins.  “As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I fought to include these provisions, and I am pleased that they were incorporated in the final package.”


The FY 2020 CJS funding bill allocates $73.33 billion, which is $9.15 billion more than last year’s funding level.  Provisions championed by Senator Collins to benefit Maine include:


·         National Sea Grant Program: The bill includes $75 million for the National Sea Grant Program, which is $7 million more than last year’s funding level.  Earlier this year, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group of Senators in rejecting the Administration’s proposed elimination of funding for this important research program.


·         Lobster Research: Within the funding for Sea Grant, $2 million is included to support Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank American lobster research priorities.  This research will focus on overcoming reduced availability of herring for lobster bait and stock resilience in the face of environmental changes, including life history parameters, distribution and abundance, and species interactions, with the purpose of informing future management decisions. Senator Collins has long worked to provide and protect funding for the National Sea Grant Program and was key in securing this funding in the FY 2019 appropriations bill, which was awarded last month to support a range of research projects to advance our understanding of the American lobster as well as to support a regional lobster extension program..


·         Right Whales: The bill includes $10 million for right whale related research, an increase of $2 million, and directs NOAA to work with the Canadian government to reduce risks throughout its range. Such efforts include, but are not limited to, continued collaboration on surveillance, cooperative research on the distribution of the whales and their food sources, and coordinated gear marking efforts across jurisdictions.  Furthermore, the bill urges NOAA to prioritize the development of long-term tagging methods for right whales, which would enable scientists to better track the whales’ location and distribution. Additionally, the bill directs NOAA to fully evaluate the feasibility and economic implications of any management actions relating to the North Atlantic right whale and requires the agency to incorporate into its rulemaking recent research on the species’ primary food source (which has been shown to be decreasing in abundance in the eastern Gulf of Maine).


·         Electronic Monitoring and Reporting: The bill directs NOAA to work with the Maine lobster fleet in FY 2020 on implementing Electronic Monitoring and Electronic Reporting technologies to better track information that is currently collected through the use of human observers.


·         Herring Quota: The bill directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to complete the 2020 herring assessment, which will help to address the lobster bait shortage issue in Maine.


·         Gray Zone: The bill encourages NOAA to work with Canadian and state fishery officials to develop a cooperative fisheries management plan for the gray zone.  At a Commerce Subcommittee hearing in April, Senator Collins urged senior administration officials to work to find an agreement with Canada on fishing gray zones.


·         Coastal Zone Management Grants: The bill includes $76.5 million, an increase of $1 million, for Coastal Zone Management Grants. These grants provide a basis for protecting, restoring, and responsibly developing our nation’s diverse coastal communities and resources, with a focus on: protecting natural resources, managing development in high hazard areas, giving development priority to coastal-dependent uses, providing public access for recreation, prioritizing water dependent uses, and coordinating state and federal actions.


·         Integrated Ocean observing System: The bill includes $38.5 million for Integrated Ocean Observing System Regional Observation (IOOS). IOOS is a national-regional partnership working to provide new tools (including an extensive network of information-gathering buoys) and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect our environment.


·         Atlantic Salmon: The bill includes $6.5 million for salmon restoration and recovery projects. It also directs NOAA to ensure that adequate resources are provided to state agencies to implement the recovery strategy effectively.


·         Marine Aquaculture Program: The bill includes $13 million, an increase of $1 million, for the Marine Aquaculture Program.