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Penobscot Bay Press
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News Feature

Washington, D.C.
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 17, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, November 17, 2022
MLA files opening brief with U.S. Court of Appeals
Challenges federal rule that requires 98 percent reduction of risk to whales

Courtesy Of Kevin Kelley, Director Of Advancement Maine Lobstermen’s Association

The fight to save Maine’s iconic lobster industry has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as the Maine Lobstermen’s Association filed its opening brief in a challenge to the federal regulations poised to crush workaday fishermen, according to a press release.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is implementing a rule that requires fishermen to reduce the risk of right whale entanglement with lobster gear by 98 percent. The overwhelming majority of Maine lobstermen are unable to afford compliance with the draconian risk reduction plan that, according to the NMFS, will not even recover the whale population. The release states “The plan will likely result in a corporate takeover of the remnants of Maine’s fishery, destroying the culture, charm and, most importantly, the families and communities who have responsibly fished Maine lobsters for generations.”

“Maine’s lobster industry brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year, supports thousands of jobs, and single-handedly sustains dozens of coastal communities in the Nation’s most rural state,” the brief reads. “The Supreme Court has already held—unanimously, no less—that a central purpose of the [Endangered Species Act] provision at issue ‘is to avoid needless economic dislocation produced by agency officials zealously but unintelligently pursuing their environmental objectives.’ This Court should heed that admonition and preserve a national icon.”

The brief explains that the law requires the NMFS to use the best scientific and commercial data available and ensure only that the lobstermen are not likely to jeopardize the right whale population. “Instead, the agency skewed the evidence and catastrophized,” the release stated. “Regulators relied on worst case scenarios and assumptions unsupported by their own data to impose a risk reduction plan that poses an existential threat to a classic American trade.”

The release further states that there is no physical evidence that Maine’s lobstermen are a threat to right whales.

“Lobstermen have implemented measures to protect whales from lobster gear for more than two decades. Their safety record is spotless—as the brief notes, there has never been a documented whale fatality due to Maine’s fleet, and the last documented instance of a right whale entanglement involving Maine lobster gear was in 2004, and that entanglement occurred years before lobstermen further enhanced their safety measures and climate change prompted whales to migrate away from Maine waters.”