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MLA Announces $10 Million Campaign To Save Maine Lobstermen

By MLA Staff

On November 16, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) announced the launch of a three-year, $10 million fundraising campaign to fight new federal regulations that threaten the future of the Maine lobster industry. The campaign comes in response to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) release in August of its Biological Opinion which requires the fishery to reduce risk to North Atlantic right whales by 98% in ten years.

“The federal government has adopted a draconian plan intended to protect North Atlantic right whales. But their plan is a lose-lose for all. It will not protect right whales, and it will eliminate the Maine lobster fishery. If we don’t meet the 98% risk reduction mandate, it will be illegal for the federal government to continue to permit the lobster fishery,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the MLA.

The fundraising campaign will support a four-pronged effort to combat the new rules. The legal fight began in September, when the MLA filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. against NMFS’s ten-year plan, arguing among other points, that the agency did not use the best available data to build the plan.

In addition, the MLA is working with scientists to ensure that NMFS is required to use the most up-to-date science related to right whales. The MLA also will engage with lobstermen to develop innovative fishing gear that protects right whales and also guarantees the continuation of the fishery. Finally, the MLA will ensure that public is aware of the serious threat faced by lobstermen and the thousands of small businesses in the state that depend on them.

Katie Werner, co-owner of Island Lobster Company on Peaks Island, urged Maine businesses that rely on a robust lobster fishery to support the MLA’s fundraising campaign. “This isn’t just a campaign to save Maine lobstermen, this is a vital step in saving our state’s economy, not only my business but other businesses that rely on tourism,” she said. “I’m challenging other companies to step up and be part of this cause.”

The lobster industry is critical to Maine. It contributes nearly $2 billion a year to the state’s economy and supports at least ten thousand jobs. Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher is estimating that 2021 is shaping up to be a record year for lobster value as the fishery is already up $230 million over last year. Kristan Porter, president of the MLA, noted that the MLA’s Board of Directors is one hundred percent committed to this fundraising campaign. The board is challenging not only lobstermen but anyone who relies on a strong lobster industry to make a generous contribution.

“Lobstermen have been honest brokers and stepped up every time the federal government has required new whale conservation measures because we care deeply about our fishery and about the whales,” said Porter. “But this time, we have no choice but to fight back and we can’t do it alone.”

“If the federal government shuts down this fishery, they’re not telling any of us to get a new job… they’re telling us to get a new life,” said Dustin Delano, vice president of the MLA. “I’m fully invested in taking care of the ocean because my livelihood depends on it, and I’m fully invested in ensuring this fundraising campaign is a success because if we can’t afford to fight back, we’re done.”

The MLA created a website, SaveMaineLobstermen.org, which provides details on its proposed actions as well as opportunities to donate.

“Just as Maine lobstermen can’t solve whale deaths that aren’t occurring in our fishery, Maine lobstermen cannot save our lobstering heritage without broad financial support,” McCarron said. “The MLA urges every Mainer and business person, anyone who feels a sense of pride about a connection to Maine’s lobster fishery and our lobstering heritage, to step up and make a contribution to Save Maine Lobstermen.

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