A little over a week ago, we saw more than a thousand lobstermen flood the Stonington commercial pier. Almost the entire Maine delegation attended in person to demonstrate its support for lobstermen who are being unfairly targeted around the issue of right whale entanglement. Also speaking and demonstrating their support were Maine Governor Janet Mills, State Senate President Troy Jackson and several other state elected officials.
It was the start of an effort to inform the public that if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) mandates new rules that cut our lines by 50 percent it will be a financial disaster for the lobstering industry and our coastal communities. The industry is about 1.5 billion and supports many more jobs beyond the lobstermen who pull the lobster out of the ocean and put it on your table. There are a significant number of ancillary or indirect impact jobs, so at the end of the day that decision on right whale entanglements and reducing our lines affects many.
First, there is no scientific proof that Maine lobstermen have contributed to right whale deaths in the last few years. To the contrary, we know the right whale has been killed in waters off Canada and near Massachusetts. NOAA is getting ready to impose rules on the wrong group of people. NOAA needs to look at ship strikes, where the right whale is getting its food source and finally they need to hear from Maine lobstermen.
As a lobsterman, all my life, I can tell you this has been a very difficult summer. As an industry, we have been hit over and over again. Right whales are just the beginning.
If it’s not right whale regulations, it’s bait shortages and, frankly, growing aquaculture leases with a 99 percent approval rate by the state and the potential for a total of 1,000-acre aquaculture leases per person. That size lease will look very good to out of state corporations at the expense of lobstermen losing even more bottom as well as anyone who wants to fish or recreate on the waters.
Regardless of the issue, we need your support to keep this iconic brand in Maine. People come here for lobsters every summer and that brings with it added revenue from tourism. The lobstering industry is an economic pillar of Maine and we would hate to see someone knock it down based on poor science and a rush to judgment.
If you want to help our Maine lobstermen and women, please write to your congressional representatives and President Trump and ask them to support Maine’s lobstering communities.