September 13, 2022
WASHINGTON — After the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) gave lobster industry participants just two business days to submit proposals for a new risk reduction plan to protect right whales and denied lobstermen and their allies access to a key data tool, Maine’s congressional delegation pushed back today against these decisions by the agency.
In their letter to NMFS, Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02), Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) called out the agency for drastically accelerating the timeline for proposals in the aftermath of a recent decision by the U.S. District Court invalidating a biological opinion for the North Atlantic Right Whale.
“NMFS should not prioritize expediency when doing so compromises the very survival of Maine’s lobster fishery. This approach will also undermine stakeholder faith in the process and may ultimately yield a new regulatory framework that does not provide additional protections for right whales while potentially shutting down the entire lobster industry,” wrote the members of Congress.
The Maine delegation also urged NMFS to provide immediate access to the Decision Support Tool (DST), a data model used by the agency to determine how much risk is associated with a specific state or fishery, to state fisheries regulators and industry members.
“Given the DST will be used to determine future regulatory actions by your agency on the lobster fishery,” continued the Members of Congress. “We strongly urge you to make it available to stakeholders immediately or change the timeline of the scoping period to ensure that state fisheries regulators and industry have had time to contemplate measures using the DST to identify proposals that protect right whales and preserve the lobster fishery.”
Read a copy of the letter here.