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Lobstering restrictions off Maine’s coast paused following court ruling

The Maine Lobstering Union sued to prevent the temporary closure of a nearly 1,000-square mile area.
Published: Oct. 17, 2021 at 3:34 AM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Maine lobstermen will not have to stop fishing in an area slated to be off limits from October through January.

According to a release from the Maine Lobstering Union, the trade group was granted emergency relief by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine to stop the closure of the roughly 1,000 square mile area.

“This victory by the Maine Lobstering Union is a significant step in protecting one of Maine’s most precious industries — lobstering,” said Alfred Frawley, the attorney representing the Maine Lobstering Union.

“The regulations proposed by federal agencies would have had a chilling impact on communities throughout Maine. We will continue to push for science and data that reflect what is truly happening in our industry,” Frawley said.

The rules issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service are part of a 10-year plan to reduce the risk of right whales getting tangled in lobster fishing ropes and dying.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there are fewer than 370 right whales left in the world.

NOAA tracks right whale deaths and injuries from fishing entanglements and ship strikes. Between 2012 and 2016, no right whale deaths or injuries were recorded in Maine Waters.

The last known entanglement to happen in Maine was in 2004, an incident which that whale survived.

Sean Mahoney, vice president of the Conservation Legal Foundation, argues that just because entanglements are not reported in Maine, does not mean they do not happen.

Congressman Jared Golden released the following statement after District Judge Lance Walker issued a temporary restraining order blocking the closure of a large area off the coast of Maine to lobster fishing:

“Judge Walker’s sound decision to block the seasonal closure of valuable Maine lobstering waters is a positive signal that the voices of Maine lobstermen are being heard. For the first time in this regulatory process, the concerns of lobstermen were weighed fairly and as a result we have a ruling grounded in common sense and the public good.

“The judge’s decision acts on arguments that lobstermen have been making for years now: there is simply not hard data to support the idea that Maine lobster gear is killing right whales. As they have argued and as Judge Walker notes, implementing this closure would cause serious economic damage to lobstering communities without any demonstrated impact on saving right whales.

“I applaud the Maine Lobstering Union for filing and prevailing in this suit on behalf of their members. They are a great example of the power of unions to get results for working people. This struggle is not over in the courts nor in the federal government, and I look forward to working with lobstermen across the state to continue to fight for fair regulations based on accurate data and hard evidence.”

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