AUGUSTA – Today, Sept. 29, the Maine Legislature overwhelmingly approved a joint order from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would allow the Legislative Council to take legal action in support of Maine lobstermen impacted by the harmful new federal regulations, according to a news release from Sen. Jackson’s office.
The Legislative Council is a bipartisan committee that includes members of House and Senate leadership and is responsible for the overall management of the entire Legislature.
“Maine lobstermen are a vital part of our communities and economy,” said Jackson, in the release. “For years, they’ve adapted the way they make a living to meet new rules and regulations to protect our natural resources and wildlife. However, the latest rules imposed by the federal government will do nothing to help the endangered species they were designed to protect while having damning consequences on hardworking Mainers and their families. Today, lawmakers all across the ideological spectrum made it very clear that the Maine Legislature will not sit idly by while this iconic industry is under threat. We are ready to take legal action to right this wrong and support the hardworking men and women in the lobstering industry.”
The joint order comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed from the Maine Lobstering Union in the United States District Court for the District of Maine, seeking emergency relief related to the impending closure of Lobster Management Area 1.
State statute allows the Legislative Council, on behalf of the Legislature, to take: “such legal action as it determines appropriate and fiscally feasible, including, but not limited to, joining any pending legal action regarding the 2021 opinion or the final rule as an intervenor in opposition to the measures imposed pursuant to the 2021 opinion or the final rule, providing an amicus brief in any pending legal action or initiating new litigation, and may limit the scope of its opposition to a portion or portions of the 2021 opinion or final rule, including, without limitation, those imposing increased conservation measures, seasonal closures on lobstering zones, limitations on the number or type of buoy lines and restrictions on other lobster fishing gear.”
“I fully support the Legislature taking every possible action to support the Maine lobster fishery and protect the fleet from unfair and arbitrary federal restrictions,” said Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, a lobster boat captain. “We should not be basing regulations on outdated science, especially when the livelihoods of so many people hang in the balance.”
“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released new federal regulations in August as part of a plan to protect Right Whales despite a lack of data and evidence linking current lobstering practices to the decline in this endangered species,” the release said. “An estimated 34 whales have died since 2017, with only 12 deaths occurring in U.S. waters. None of these deaths can be linked to the Maine lobstermen.”
New regulations regarding fishing gear will take effect May 2022. The more controversial changes will take effect October 18. These changes are expected to cost lobstermen millions in new gear and 5-10 percent of their annual revenue according to the Portland Press Herald, the release said.
The Maine Lobstermen’s Association has filed its own lawsuit against the Secretary of Commerce and National Marine Fisheries Service in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the federal government’s 10-year right whale protection plan.