Lobstermen gathered 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.
Julie Eaton, who fishes for lobster, said at the outset of the rally: “NOAA [The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] 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 1,000 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.”
Crystal Canney, a spokesperson for some in the industry wrote in a press release following the event that Eaton warned if lobstermen do not get support and the industry suffers the impact will be much larger,
“Here’s the deal,” Eaton said, in the release. “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.”
Hearings with NOAA will take place 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, Canney wrote.
Governor Janet Mills attended the rally, said Canney.
“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, at the rally. “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.
Representative Jared Golden, representing Maine’ Congressional District 2, saidL"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.