AUGUSTA – On Oct. 7, Maine’s Legislative Council unanimously voted to sign on to a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Bangor, seeking emergency relief related to the impending closure of Lobster Management Area 1. Last month, the Maine Legislature overwhelmingly approved a joint order from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, allowing the 10-member, bipartisan legislative council to take legal action in support of Maine lobstermen impacted by harmful new federal regulations.
“Federal regulators had the chance to work with Maine’s lobstering industry to come up with reasonable policies, backed by data, to protect this endangered species. Instead, these regulators went ahead with sweeping changes that threaten the livelihood of Maine lobstermen with little-to-no evidence that they will actually protect right whales in Maine,” said Jackson, in a news release. “At this point, the Legislative Council has no other option but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and women who have made a living on our working waterfronts for generations while doing their part to protect wildlife and natural resources. I hope this sends a clear message to Maine lobstermen that state lawmakers have their backs.”
In September, the Maine Lobstering Union filed a civil lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service following new federal regulations that include closing “one of the most productive and important lobster grounds.” The new federal regulations are part of a plan to protect the Right Whales, however, there is no evidence linking Maine’s current lobstering practices to the species decline.According to NOAA, 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 in May 2022. The more controversial changes will take effect before the end of the year. 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.
This is not the first time the Maine Legislature has sought legal action. Earlier this year, the four caucus leaders sought a court order on behalf of the entire Maine Legislature to extend the timeline for apportionment due to the delay in the 2020 U.S. Census.
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.