Senator Collins Urges Administration to Work to Find Agreement with Canada on Fishing Gray Zone

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins sent a letter to President Trump urging the Administration to work with Maine and Canadian fisheries to find a solution to conservation issues that unfairly harm Maine’s seafood industry.


Lobstermen and fishermen who work in the Gray Zone—an area located approximately ten miles off the coast of Maine between the U.S. and Canada—are growing increasingly frustrated that their Canadian counterparts who fish in the same areas are not required to follow the same regulations, and thus are undermining American protections and threatening the sustainability of the stock.  This disparity undermines American protections, threatens the sustainability of the stocks, and causes dangerous interactions at sea.


“Maine lobstermen and fishermen have been waiting far too long for a resolution to the Gray Zone dispute, and the toll it is taking on their businesses, their safety, and the resources on which their livelihoods depend continues to mount,” wrote Senator Collins.  “I look forward to working with your Administration to address the inequities presented by the Gray Zone in order to protect our seafood harvesters and invaluable natural resources.”


Generations of Maine lobstermen have marked the tails of egg-bearing females they catch with a v-notch and returned them to the water, allowing them to lay eggs, grow larger, and reproduce in future years.  Maine lobstermen also abide by a maximum size limit, tossing back oversized lobsters in order to keep the stock strong.  Because Canada does not impose such conservation measures on its fisheries, a v-notched or oversized lobster tossed back by a Maine lobsterman can be caught by a Canadian lobsterman merely yards away and brought to market.


At a Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee hearing last year, Senator Collins received a commitment from Dr. Neil Jacobs, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, to work to explore the possibility of developing a fisheries agreement between the U.S. and Canada that would provide for cooperative management of the Gray Zone. Senator Collins secured report language in the Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill highlighting this problem and urging NOAA to work on cooperative resolution.


Additionally, Senator Collins secured key funding to support Maine’s lobster industry and fisheries—as well as the National Sea Grant Program and other ocean research initiatives—in the fiscal year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill that was signed into law in December. 


Click HERE to read the full letter.