Maine’s congressional delegation will take action to limit funding to the Monterey Bay Aquarium after the California-based aquarium’s Seafood Watch non-profit placed Maine lobster on its list “Red List” of seafoods to avoid.
Rep. Jared Golden’s (ME-02) office announced Tuesday new legislation that would block the Monterey Bay Aquarium from receiving federal taxpayer funds after the aquarium’s activist non-profit arm, Seafood Watch, placed Maine lobster on its “red list” of foods to avoid.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01) will co-sponsor Golden’s “Red Listing Monterey Bay Aquarium Act.” According to a press release from Golden’s office announcing the legislation, the aquarium has received $197 million of taxpayer funds since 2001.
Included in the bill is a list of Congressional findings, which notes the steps Maine has taken to promote sustainability in its fishery, including passing a law to ban taking an egg-bearing female in 1872 and replacing floating lines with whale-safe sinking lines in 2009.
“These measures are the reason why there has never been a serious injury or death of the endangered North Atlantic right whale attributed to the Maine lobster fishery and there has not been a known right whale entanglement with Maine lobster gear since 2004,” the legislation states.
The bill also calls Seafood Watch’s red listing of American lobster “speculative and conjecture, not supported by the data or science as they state in their report.”
It concludes by prohibiting federal funds from being “appropriated, awarded, or granted” to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The same day Goldens’ office announced its intention to introduce the bill, Gov. Jane Mills announced she “fully supports” introduction of the legislation.
“I fully support Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden in their effort to strip Federal funds from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.” said Mills via a press release.
“Monterey Bay is jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of Maine people and a cornerstone of Maine’s economy with no good evidence. In fact, Monterey Bay has completely ignored sound science and facts and has proven that they are not worthy of Federal funding. There must be consequences for their recklessness and their disregard for an industry that is at the heart of our state and our country–and this is a good step in that direction.” Mills continued.
Seafood Watch’s listing comes as the Maine lobster industry and Maine’s Congressional delegation fight recent federal changes to rules for lobster fishing in federal waters off the coast of Maine.
As part of a plan to protect North Atlantic right whales, which are listed as endangered by the Endangered Species Act, rules released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in August 2021 close Lobster Management Area 1, an approximately 1,000 square mile area in the Gulf of Maine, annually between October and January. The rules also instituted new gear marking requirements for fishermen operating in federal waters.
A public hearing on the right whale rules was held by NOAA in Portland on October 5. The agency announced in September that it would open a scoping period to seek input from stakeholders about its measures relating to right whale protection.
Also in September, Mills sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo asking for in-person meetings to be held in Portland, rather than online as NOAA initially intended.
Both Seafood Watch’s action and the NOAA lobster fishery rules have played a role in the 2022 elections, with Republicans alleging Democrats, including Golden and Mills, are hypocrites for accepting campaign donations from groups that support the federal regulations the industry is currently fighting.
“Jared Golden’s bill to defund the Monterey Aquarium and Seafood Watch is an absurd attempt to distract from his failed record of fighting for Maine lobstermen. Golden has failed to pass a single bill while in office and Congress is not even in session in October,” said former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is running against Golden in the race for Maine’s Second Congressional District, via press release on October 5.
Mills has also been criticized by Republicans for receiving donations from the League of Conservation Voters and Maine Conservation Voters, both of which have been involved in the fight to support NOAA’s new rules.