Governor Mills asks Commerce Secretary to delay implementation of gear marking and change to right whale rule


In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo today, Governor Janet Mills urged NOAA Fisheries to take swift action to reduce the unnecessary economic damage to Maine fishermen that the recently announced federal whale protection rule will cause.

“I don’t think this rule, as drafted, should take effect and, at the very least, I urge you to ask NOAA Fisheries to delay the implementation of the rule of tagging gear and equipment. gear modifications (including trawling and insertion of weak points) on 1 July 2022 ‘, writes Governor Mills.

“It is completely unfair that Maine lobster vessels continue to be the primary target of heavy regulations, despite the many effective mitigation measures they have taken and despite data showing that collisions with vessels and gear Canadian fisheries continue to pose a significant risk to right whales. she wrote.

On August 31, 2021, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the Atlantic Large Whale Catch Reduction Rule. In response, Governor Mills joined U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden oppose the rule.

In her letter today, Governor Mills noted the gear marking requirements that are “very different from what was in the proposed rule.” Maine implemented a state-specific gear marking regulation in 2020 that provides flexibility for fishermen moving gear from offshore waters to coastal waters. After contacting NOAA, Maine expected that this would be reflected in the final rule. Instead, the final rule will require that many anglers “buy a second set of bottom lines”, wrote Governor Mills. She pointed out that the cost to fishermen of a second set of longlines is estimated to be over $ 9 million.

The loss of income associated with the May 1, 2022 implementation deadline for marking and modifying required gear will also unfairly weigh on Maine fishermen. “Fishermen who fish year round usually don’t start swinging their gear to shore until May. However, in order to meet the new requirements of the rule, fishermen schedule a month or more of gear work to bring them into compliance. Due to the NOAA deadline, the gear will have to be brought back to port in March or April, when the price of lobster is very high ”, wrote Governor Mills.

The expected loss from the implementation date, which was established without industry input, is between $ 15 million and $ 25 million.

Governor Mills has repeatedly defended Maine’s vital lobster industry and its workers in the face of the federal government’s right whale proposal. Last year, she wrote to the Commerce Department urging them to reject a petition from Pew Charitable Trusts calling for three seasonal offshore closures in the Gulf of Maine that would ban the use of vertical lines in lobster fisheries. American and Jonah crab in four regions of the New England coast.

She also filed comments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the draft biological advice for ten fisheries management plans in the Grand Atlantic region, focusing on the North Atlantic right whale. , expressing “grave concern” and warning that it would be economically devastating. and fundamentally change the lobster fishery in Maine.

His administration, through the Maine Department of Marine Resources, also plans to seek intervenor status in the ongoing Center for Biological Diversity v. Ross in DC Circuit U.S. District Court to prevent the court from overturning the biological opinion. (BiOp). If the organic opinion is overturned by the court, the potential result is the closure of the entire fishery. The Governor is supporting the effort by funding the use of specialized external advice through the Governor’s Emergency Account.

A copy of the letter is attached (PDF).


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