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In The News: February 2020

Cautious optimism greets US-China trade deal The new U.S.-China trade agreement, signed in January, does not eliminate Chinese tariffs, but does require China to buy $32 billion worth of American agricultural products over the next two years, including lobster and other seafood products. Over the course of the two countries’ trade war, China’s tariffs on American lobster had risen to 35%. As a consequence, Maine’s exports to China dropped significantly. “Today appears to provide some long-awaited good news for our hard-working lobstermen and lobster dealers in the face of a difficult time,” said U.S. Sen. Angus King in a press statement. “The deal includes a commitment that China will purchase lobster in the coming years — but I am concerned the language does not appear to specify a minimum purchase amount, nor does it remove the existing tariffs so our lobster can be competitively priced with Canadian lobster. While encouraged, I’ll withhold my final judgment until we see how this deal actually impacts Maine people.”

This undated photo released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows deep-sea spiral coral during a dive on the New England Seamount chain in the North Atlantic Ocean. (NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research via AP)

Marine National Monument withstands court challenge A federal appeals court has upheld the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, affirming that the federal Antiquities Act can be applied at sea as well as on land. The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and other fishing advocates challenged former President Barack Obama’s designation of the 5,000-square-mile area at the edge of the Continental Shelf south of Georges Bank in 2016. A lower federal court ruled against their lawsuit in 2018. The fishing industry groups are considering their next course of action, said Jonathan Wood, a senior attorney with the non-profit Pacific Legal Foundation representing the plaintiffs. Before deciding whether to appeal to the Supreme Court, the fishermen will likely ask all the District of Columbia circuit judges to review the decision.

Elver Lottery to Allow New Entrants Nine Maine residents will soon have a chance to join the state’s lucrative elver fishery. The Department of Marine Resources will hold a lottery, from January 16 through February 21, providing lottery winners the chance to apply for a license prior to the upcoming season. The elver season runs from March 22 through June 7. The lottery was established in 2017 and is available to Maine residents who are at least 15 years old with no record of elver license suspension. Each new license holder will receive a minimum of four pounds of the quota, which is made available from individual quota associated with licenses that were not renewed. Individuals can enter the lottery online at www.maine.gov/elverlottery or in person at the DMR office. Each individual will be allowed to submit up to five applications at a cost of $35 per application. Anyone with questions about the lottery can contact the Maine Department of Marine Resources at 207-624-6550, Option 2.

One of the new North Atlantic right whale calves spotted off the coast of Georgia with its mother. Photograph from the US' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Right Whale Calf Numbers Continue to Increase Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have spotted two more North Atlantic right whale calves. The calves are the fifth and sixth reported during the current birthing season. A 19-year-old female was spotted with a calf 11 miles off Jacksonville. It is her fourth calf. A15-year-old female and her calf were sighted off Crescent Beach, Florida. The Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA, reports that ten right whales were spotted in Cape Cod Bay by aerial surveillance on January 18. There were 60 right whales sighted off Nantucket on January 22; 22 right whales were seen later in Cape Cod Bay on January 24.

Editor's note: As of the publication date 2/22/2020, the current number of Right Whale calves number nine total.

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