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News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 11, 2021
NOAA’s bid to close offshore zone fails
Judge refuses to stay the injunction

by Leslie Landrigan

The federal government and conservation groups have failed to convince a federal judge to allow the closure of 967 square miles of the Gulf of Maine.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had issued a new rule on August 31 that would close the lobster fishing grounds every year, from October through December. The purpose of the rule was to protect the endangered right whale, though fishermen say right whales don’t migrate through the Gulf of Maine.

In October, the Maine Lobstering Union asked U.S. District Judge Lance Walker for an injunction to stop the closure of the fishing grounds while it tries to overturn the rule in court. Walker complied on October 16.

The federal government and conservation groups then appealed the injunction. On November 5, Walker denied their appeal.

Walker, in his decision, wrote that he had halted the closure because the government failed to show right whales aggregate in the zone. He argued that the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of NOAA, had shown “a blinkered adherence to predictive modeling when concrete evidence to solve those uncertainties is reasonably available.”

The Maine Lobstering Union was likely to prevail in its challenge to the closure, Walker wrote. He also wrote that the union showed a closure would “deal a heavy and irreparable blow” to the lobstering industry.

Allison Ferreira, NOAA spokesperson, said the agency doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.