The Working Waterfront

Collins secures funding for lobster industry

Earmarks to support fishing in face of whale rules

Posted 2022-01-11
Last Modified 2022-01-11

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has secured $15 million in the draft fiscal year 2022 commerce, justice, and science appropriations bill to support Maine’s lobster industry.

The bill must still be voted upon by the full Senate and House. Collins released the following statement:

“The seafood industry is a vital part of Maine’s economy and heritage, sustaining jobs and strengthening our coastal communities. The livelihoods of the Mainers who work in this industry were recently jeopardized by a rule from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“This rule, which is intended to protect the fragile right whale population, unfairly targets Maine’s lobstermen and women…”

“This rule, which is intended to protect the fragile right whale population, unfairly targets Maine’s lobstermen and women and does not reflect reality in the Gulf of Maine. Notably, there are no known cases of Maine’s lobster industry being responsible for killing or seriously injuring a right whale, and there has not been a single right whale entanglement attributed to Maine lobster fisheries in nearly two decades.

“This funding would support our state’s iconic lobster industry by engaging stakeholders in the local and regional seafood systems, helping to cover the costs incurred by lobstermen as a result of the misguided rule, and improving the incomplete and imprecise science upon which the federal government relies. I will continue to champion this investment as the appropriations process moves forward.”
The funding includes:

• $765,000 to help the lobster industry plan for the future: The process would engage and prepare stakeholders led by the Maine Department of Marine Resources and supported by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, the Southern Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

• $10 million to help the lobster industry comply with new regulations: Funding 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, currently set to take effect in May 2022.

• $300,000 to improve scientific understanding of right whale migration patterns: Funding would support a continuous plankton recorder survey to better track the movement of the whale’s primary food source, a strong indicator of migration patterns.

• $4 million for right whale-related research, monitoring, and conservation: Funding will spur partnerships among lobster fishermen, state agencies, and research institutions toward developing operational technologies that will help the lobster industry in the Gulf of Maine.
Collins also secured instructions to NOAA to complete an assessment and cumulative estimate of any economic losses incurred by the lobster industry that are directly related to the final rule and to work with Canada to develop risk reduction measures that are comparable in effectiveness for both fisheries and vessels.

Collins joined the Maine congressional delegation and Gov. Janet Mills in opposing the new rule they believe threatens the lobster industry and does not meaningfully protect whales.