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In the News | February 2024

Herring Suit Heard at Supreme Court


The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appears likely to curtail the ability of federal agencies to regulate a host of areas, signaling that a 40-year-old decision known as the “Chevron decision” could be in jeopardy. The two challenges before the justices in mid-January arose from a 2020 federal regulation requiring owners of fishing vessels in the Atlantic herring fishery to pay for monitors who collect data and oversee operations while they’re at sea. But herring and the rule that gave way to the disputes were seldom mentioned during oral arguments. Instead the plaintiffs argued that federal agencies should not be given deference to interpret laws that were vague in language.


Maine Eel Company Receives Investment


American Unagi Inc., a Waldoboro company that is the only U.S. producer and processor of American eel, received a $1.5 million investment from RuralWorks Partners LLC, an impact investment firm with offices in Vermont and Minnesota. The investment aims to support the company’s future growth. Operating in partnership with the local Passamaquoddy Tribe, American Unagi said it’s positioned to supply escalating demand for eel among food consumers, notably within a fast-growing market for Japanese cuisine.


Sara Radamaker. Founder and president of American Unagi.


Canadians Concerned About U.S. Minimum Size Increase


In January 2025 the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will institute automatic increase in the minimum size of lobster that can be harvested in the U.S. This change has caused some concern among Canadian lobstermen and processors. In January 2025, the minimum legal size will increase to 3-5/16 inches (84 millimeters), and it will go up to 3-3/8 inches (88 millimeters) in 2027. Legal carapace sizes in the Maritimes vary from as small as 2.95 inches (75 millimeters) to as large as 3.25 inches (82.5 millimeters).


The change will likely mean more small lobsters will have to be processed instead of sold whole, said Charlie McGeoghegan, chair of the Lobster Fishers of P.E.I. Marketing Board. At its January meeting, the ASMFC clarified that it intended Canadian lobsters smaller than the new U.S. minimum for Lobster Management Area 1 cannot be imported to the U.S. ASMFC has drafted an addendum to solicit public comment on this.


2023 U.S. Lobster Season “Solid”


Stable supply and a strong Asian market provided the basis for a solid year for the North American lobster industry, according to SeafoodSource. North American lobster landings are expected to be down 5% in 2023 once totals are released, but the resource is in excellent shape and continues to be reliable, according to a panel of shellfish experts speaking at the 2024 Global Seafood Market Conference in Florida in January. “We’ve been hovering right around 300 million pounds as a total category for many years after a big run-up in the 1990s and early 2000s,” said Ready Seafood Vice President Andrew Daughan. “It’s a wild-caught species, so you’re going to have some fluctuations in landings, but year after year it has proven to be a consistent fishery.”


Maine Keeps Stable Elver Quota


In January the Department of Marine Resources announced that Maine would retain its 9,688 pounds of elver quota after a decision by the American Eel Board at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) winter meeting. The fishery generated more than $20 million in revenue last year. The Board recognized the strong management measures that DMR has put in place to avoid exceeding the state’s allotted quota and to reduce incidents of illegal harvesting. Draft Addendum VI contains options for how long the quota should remain in place. The ASMFC will provide an opportunity to review and comment on the Draft Addendum later this year.

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