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Court ruling threatens Maine’s lobster industry

Association seeks donations to support its intervention in the case
May 06, 2020

Thousands of Maine’s family-owned lobstering businesses are at risk of extinction because of a recent federal court ruling citing a violation of the Endangered Species Act by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"The world’s most sustainable fishery could be shut down. And that is something that the Maine Lobstermen’s Association cannot let happen," the association said in a press release today.

“The MLA has launched a campaign to raise $500,000 to save Maine’s lobster industry,” Executive Director Patrice McCarron said in the release. The MLA is an intervenor in the court case and is the only organization in Maine that has been granted standing to participate in the case.

In early April, Judge James Boasberg of the Federal District Court for Washington, D.C., ruled that NMFS violated the Endangered Species Act in permitting the lobster fishery. The judge’s opinion states that “Congress enacted the ESA in 1973 to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.”

Whale entanglement data collected by NMFS, however, shows that no right whale deaths or serious injuries have ever been documented in Maine lobster gear. This is in stark contrast to the deaths of 10 right whales in Canada last year.

“Maine lobstermen have not broken any laws. For nearly a quarter of a century they have followed every law and fishery management regulation, including major changes to their gear and fishing practices to save right whales,” McCarron said. Nevertheless, the court's decision will directly impact Maine lobstermen and the communities that depend on them.

“This case could lead to closure of the world’s most sustainable fishery and we cannot let that happen. Right whales are not dying in Maine lobster gear,” McCarron said. “Lobstermen have done everything they have been asked to protect right whales and remain committed to doing their part to save the species.”

It’s not just lobstermen whose future is at stake. “This is an urgent situation for Maine’s lobster fishing families and also for everyone in Maine who values our cultural heritage and the economic impact tourism brings to the state,” said Amy Lent, executive director of the Maine Maritime Museum. An adverse decision would have a ripple effect on the thousands of businesses and communities that depend on lobstermen. Lobster is not only a Maine icon, but is an economic pillar for Maine tourism and the coastal economy.

McCarron said, “This could mean the end of the lobstering tradition for our children. We are fighting for our lives right now, and we are prepared to appeal if it comes to that.”

Maine Lobstermen's Association is calling for donations to its Legal Defense Fund. Contributions can be made on the MLA web site (, via phone, 967-4555, or by mailing checks made out to “MLA Legal Defense Fund” and mailed to MLA, 2 Storer St., Suite 203, Kennebunk, ME 04043.



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