The Maine Lobstering Union released the following statement following a court ruling delaying a decision on lobstering restrictions: 

“The Maine Lobstering Union is pleased that Judge Boasberg in the District of Columbia agreed with the union and its colleagues that all concerned need to better understand the available data before making decisions that could drastically alter or even end lobster fishing in federal waters.

“By delaying a decision on whether or not to vacate National Marine Fisheries Service’s existing biological opinion for at least the next two years, the court has given the industry and NMFS the time that they need to evaluate the science and come up with a workable solution that will allow both the lobster fishery and the right whale to thrive.

“While change is coming, and there is much work left to be done, this is a significant step towards finally finding that solution. The MLU is grateful that Maine fishermen and the families that depend on them finally have some good news.”

U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg issued his ruling on Thursday, Nov. 17.

“As it once again articulated in last week’s hearing, the Court’s goal in this process remains to allow all stakeholders — conservationists, scientists, lobstermen, and others — to work collaboratively to ensure the survival of both the right whale and the lobster industry. While the Court is duty bound to ensure compliance with the law — here, the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act — it does not wish to usurp the role of the experts, especially given how quickly circumstances change. The Court appreciates that the agency has a steep climb ahead: in addition to helping the industry onto a path towards widespread adoption of ropeless technology, it must carefully weigh the scientific data in an ever-evolving field. It is not for the Court to propose policy solutions; its role is only to ensure compliance with the law while, in its equitable discretion, offering all sides some breathing room to work in good faith towards a solution. The Court believes that this Order is the best of the difficult options available for doing so,” the judge stated in his ruling.

NMFS was ordered to finalize a new Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Amendment Rule consistent with this Court’s Memorandum Opinion of July 8, 2022, by no later than Dec. 9, 2024 with status reports every six months leading to that date.