$17 million for lobster industry included in bill

WASHINGTON — A sum of $17,065,000 to support Maine’s lobster industry was included in the Fiscal Year 2022 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden announced March 11. Collins is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee. Pingree is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Interior and Environment Subcommittee.

The omnibus funding package passed the House and the Senate before heading to the President’s desk.
“NOAA’s own data show that the Maine fishery has never been linked to a right whale death, and the record clearly demonstrates that ship strikes and Canadian fishing activities are major contributors to right whale mortalities,” said Sens. Collins and King and Reps. Pingree and Golden in a joint statement. “Maine lobstermen and women have always been good stewards of the environment and have taken numerous actions to protect right whales when the science has warranted it. That’s why it is extremely frustrating that they have been targeted by the deeply flawed and unfair Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Rule.

“We strongly advocated for this funding, which will support our state’s iconic lobster industry by helping to cover the costs incurred by lobstermen as a result of the misguided rule, engaging stakeholders in the local and regional seafood systems and improving the incomplete and imprecise science upon which the federal government relies.”

“The Maine lobster industry faces an uncertain future as a result of onerous federal regulations that are not based on sound science,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “MLA is grateful for the delegation’s efforts to secure this important funding and for their recognition that the government’s flawed plan should be revised so that it protects whales without eliminating the lobster fishery.”

“This funding comes at a critical time, as Maine’s lobster industry faces challenges from both an uncertain future and the looming May 1 implementation date,” said Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). “Support for improved science will also ensure more targeted regulations in the future which will have better conservation benefits for whales, and less unintended consequences for Maine fishermen.”

The funding includes:

  •  $14 million to help the lobster industry comply with new regulations. This funding was included in the CJS Appropriations bill and will cover costs paid for by the lobster industry to comply with the final rule to modify the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, including gear modification, configuration and marking requirements, which are currently set to take effect in May 2022. Collins and Golden recently introduced the SAFE SEAS Act, co-sponsored by Sen. King and Rep. Pingree, which would authorize such assistance for the next two fiscal years.
  •  $765,000 to help the lobster industry plan for the future.
  •  $2 million in Sea Grant lobster and right whale-related research, monitoring and conservation efforts.
  •  $300,000 to improve scientific understanding of right whale migration patterns. This funding would support a continuous plankton recorder survey to better track the movement of right whales’ primary food source.

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