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MLA Appeals Deeply Disappointing U.S. District Court Decision - Vows to fight to the Supreme Court

On September 14 the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) filed a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Maine Lobstermen’s Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service — its lawsuit to reverse a scientifically-flawed federal whale plan that will cripple Maine’s lobster industry. In July, the Court ruled in favor of NMFS in the case brought by the MLA against the agency.

“The Maine lobster industry faces punishing, unnecessary regulatory restrictions in a careless effort to save endangered whales,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the MLA. “After working for years with federal regulators and other stakeholders, and after pleading our case to a federal court that never addressed our well-documented concerns with scientific deficiencies, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association is escalating its fight to save Maine’s lobstering heritage from a plan that the agency itself admits is not needed for the species to survive.”

A sign posted at an Ellsworth business in September shows exactly what's at stake for Maine's coastal communities and the state's economy if the lobster fishery is shut down. WABI image.

McCarron emphasized MLA will pursue all viable avenues to have its legal claims addressed, “including resorting to the Supreme Court if necessary to protect Maine’s sustainable fishery, MLA’s members, and their coastal communities.”

In September 2021, MLA filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s draconian and fundamentally flawed 10-year whale protection plan that will all but eliminate the Maine lobster fishery yet still fail to save the endangered North Atlantic right whale. MLA argued that the NMFS acted arbitrarily when it failed to rely on the best scientific information and account for the positive impact of conservation measures already adopted by the Maine lobster fishery, then designed a plan aimed at curing unrealistic “worst-case scenarios.” On September 8, District Court Judge Boasberg ruled against the MLA in an opinion that deferred to NMFS on all counts without disputing the validity of the MLA’s concerns.

“We refuse to let a single judge’s decision be the last word,” said Kristan Porter, president of the MLA. “The facts are clear. Maine lobstermen are not driving the whale towards extinction. There has never been a known right whale death associated with Maine lobster gear, and there has not been a single known right whale entanglement with Maine lobster gear in nearly two decades.”

Porter stated that MLA will continue its fight to block federal actions taken to protect whales without credible scientific support or an evidence-based plan.

“The MLA will not let NMFS’s disregard for data decimate the most sustainable fishery in the world. If we have to go all the way to the Supreme Court to protect our hardworking families and preserve coastal communities, that is what we will do.”

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