Message to Maine's Lobster Industry from Governor Janet T. Mills

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To Members of Maine’s Lobster Industry: 

As you may have seen, earlier today NOAA Fisheries released its final rule to modify the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. They have made a number of changes from the proposed rule, and I have directed Commissioner Keliher and his team at the Department of Marine Resources to review it closely.   

My Administration and Maine’s entire Congressional Delegation have spent the better part of the past three years working with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Lobstering Union, and other stakeholders to insist that NOAA:  1) focus on the science and 2) consider the impact of its rules on your safety and your livelihoods. Protecting the right whale population must be done through regulations that are fair, that are safe for fishermen, and that accurately reflect the reality in the Gulf of Maine.  

While NOAA has accepted much of Maine’s proposal for Conservation Equivalencies, which the industry spent significant time developing, NOAA has finalized a gear marking scheme that is very different than what was in the proposed rule. NOAA also continues to include an offshore seasonal closure that is not rooted in right whale sightings or surveys. These types of changes – which disregard fishermen’s time, money, and safety – are extremely troubling.   

As members of the lobster industry, you have repeatedly made sacrifices by changing the way you fish and by modifying your gear to protect right whales, including implementing weak link mandates in 1997 and again in 2007.  In nearly two decades, there has not been a single known right whale entanglement attributed to the Maine lobster fishery. It is entirely unfair that Maine lobstermen and women continue to be the primary target of burdensome regulations, despite the many effective mitigation measures you have taken and despite the data showing that ship strikes and Canadian fishing gear continue to pose significant risk to right whales.  

We are evaluating the rule closely and will work with the Congressional Delegation to determine the best way to address the concerns our administration and those of the Maine lobster industry. While this issue has been brewing for several years now, I don’t care whether there is a Democrat or a Republican in the White House; I will always stand up for the interests of Maine’s lobster industry in the face of burdensome and undue regulations and we will continue to work with our partners in the lobster industry to support this vital part of Maine’s economy and heritage. 


Governor Janet T. Mills