July 21, 2019 |Stonington, ME – Lobstermen from Machias to Boothbay Harbor rallied on the Stonington Commercial Fish Pier to draw greater attention to the issues facing the survival of their industry and the livelihoods of coastal Maine communities.
Lobsterman Julie Eaton led off the day saying, “NOAA knows that not one Right Whale has been proven to have been entangled in Maine rope in many years and the new proposed regulations would only cause extreme danger to our lobstermen. We are the first line of protection to the marine mammals of all types and had much rather work on sensible solutions that work for everyone. Between the proposed new regulations for the Right Whale, a bait shortage and the threat of aquacultures leases that could allow a single person sole use of 1000 acres of our fishing grounds, these are dark times for Maine’s lobstermen. We are hoping that our state and federal politicians will hear our plea and stand by us and our coastal communities.”
Eaton added if lobstermen do not get support and the industry suffers the impact will be much larger, “Here’s the deal, if we can’t make a living then we can’t buy vehicles, we don’t fix our homes which impacts contractors, we don’t spend as much at the grocery store. When a large community such as this with more than 4800 lobster license holders is impacted the ripple effect will be felt far and wide.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is likely to get an earful from lobstermen at upcoming hearings in August to discuss the Right Whale issue. Many testifying at the hearings have demonstrated concerns that more was not done sooner to protect the lobster industry.
Over the last few months, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has held hearings up and down the coast and, last week, Governor Janet Mills sent an open letter to members of the lobster industry conveying her solidarity with them.
Governor Janet Mills attended the rally saying, “Maine’s lobster industry is a critical pillar of our state’s economy, with thousands of commercial harvesters and dealers supporting their families, breathing life into their communities, providing jobs, and helping sustain a treasured way of life,” said Governor Mills. “As Governor, I will always defend our lobster industry. which is why I have directed Commissioner Keliher to evaluate a risk reduction target for Maine that is commensurate to any actual risk posed by the lobster industry. We are committed to pursuing solutions based on sound science that protect both lobstermen and Right Whales.”
Senator Susan Collins, Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden attended as well.
“Maine’s iconic lobster fishery supports the livelihoods of 4,800 licensed lobstermen and women and more than 10,000 additional Mainers who work within the industry,” said Senator Collins. “The challenges facing our lobster industry have always transcended politics. I am working with my colleagues in the Maine Delegation, lobstermen and women, state officials, and all stakeholders to find a solution that ensures a strong future for the lobster industry and reflects reality in the Gulf of Maine.”
Representative Chellie Pingree said, “The Right Whale population needs our help. I am concerned however that NOAA’s one-size-fits-all risk reduction tool may not be the best fit for Maine’s lobster industry, and could potentially endanger the lives and livelihoods of Maine lobstermen,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01). “Before we ask them to make such significant and costly changes, we need more information about the risk factors to Right Whales to ensure that reducing lines will actually keep them from harm. Protecting our oceans and the sea life that inhabit them is one of my biggest priorities in Congress, but this regulation, and all solutions need to be reassessed to ensure the safety of those putting food on our tables.”
Representative Jared Golden said, “I was proud to stand alongside Maine lobstermen in Stonington today. The new NOAA regulations could put many Maine lobstermen out of business without a guarantee that any right whales would be saved. It is important to Maine communities and the lobster industry that we continue to fight against unfair rules and inaccurate information. We’re calling for solutions based on sound science and good data that protect lobstermen and whales.”
Earlier this month, Congressman Golden, Senator Collins, Senator King, and Congresswoman Pingree wrote to the president asking him to intervene in the implementation of new regulations on Maine lobstermen.
To read the letter click here.