Maine’s lobstermen and women are under attack by the Biden Administration after a recent set of rule changes restricting seasonal lobster fishing in 950 square miles of federal waters off Maine’s coast. This is an inflexible and poorly considered attempt to protect the North Atlantic right whale population.
The series of rule changes are the most heavy-handed in a long line of attempts to undermine the lobster industry here in Maine. If our fisheries are not protected, and if these rules are not reversed, Maine’s fishermen and women will not recover.
Members of my family contribute to the lobster industry that generated over half a billion dollars for our state in 2020. I can attest to their frustration, which is shared by other lobstermen and women, to the extremity of these recent changes by the Biden administration.
I can personally attest to how extreme and destructive these recent changes by the Biden administration are.
The 950 square miles, from Mt. Desert Island to Casco Bay, that will be off-limits for fishermen between the months of October and January, will have a major impact for off-shore lobster fishing and will displace countless fishermen, and overcrowd areas outside the restricted zone.
In addition to this rule, gear marking changes will require lobstermen to purchase new equipment, which is not only burdensome, but costly. This comes after Maine took proactive measures to fill data gaps by implementing state specific gear-marking regulations. Measures that mean fishermen who previously modified gear will need to go out and buy it all again.
Lobstermen cannot propose alternative and more cost effective measures, and these actions undermine the trust between the industry and regulators necessary for sustainable fisheries. This is government’s “it’s my way or the highway” mentality—this is government knowing best.
For decades, lobstermen and Maine fisheries have been making line reductions and gear improvements. We made reductions in 1997 and 2007. As a result, the U.S. lobster fisheries have reduced right whale entanglements in American lobster gear by over 90%. Now, this new series of rules calls for an increase in reduction in gear, which puts the safety of fellow lobstermen and women at great risk.
As I said before, these rules come from an attempt to protect the North Atlantic right whale population; however, NOAA is attempting to prevent entanglements and deaths of right whales that are not occurring in Maine waters.
The Biden Administration, and NOAA, are set on protecting the right whale population even those there is no evidence to support their extreme measures. This administration is pinning the blame on our lobster industry rather than confronting the Canadian government who has taken zero action to address concerns regarding the large number of right whale death in Canadian waters over the last five years.
These set of rules are devoid of reality and common sense. The Biden administration is more concerned with looking like he is doing something, no matter how unsupported the policy, than considering how this action will endanger Maine’s lobster industry.
Patrice McCarron, Executive Director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, has come out against these rule changes and stated that these come without the input from Maine lobstermen. If government will not listen to the men and women who make up this industry, who are they accountable to?
Elections have consequences and this is one of them.