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July 14, 2023

$35M for Maine’s lobster industry advanced in Senate funding bill

boats traps water File photo / Laurie Schreiber If approved by Congress,  $30 million will go to right whale-related research and monitoring, which is expected to help Maine’s lobster industry in its assertion that it doesn’t cross paths with the endangered whale.

Over $35 million —  much of it to go to right whale-related research and monitoring — was approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate and House.

“Flawed and incomplete data is being used to inform regulations, creating unnecessary, burdensome requirements for Maine lobstermen and women,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a news release. “This funding would support Maine’s iconic lobster industry by improving the incomplete and imprecise science upon which the federal government relies.”

The  money and language, designed to support Maine’s lobster industry, was included in the Fiscal Year 2024 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.    

 The proposed appropriations are as follows:

  • $30 million — a $4 million increase over FY23 levels — to the Atlantic Marine States Fisheries Commission for right whale related research and monitoring. 
  • $3 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Science Center Right Whale monitoring efforts in the Gulf of Maine.
  • Language directing NOAA to work with Canada to develop risk reduction measures that are comparable in effectiveness to U.S. measures. 
  • $300,000 to continue a plankton recorder survey, to help inform conservation of the North Atlantic right whale.
  • $2 million for Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank American lobster research, to be carried out through a partnership of state agencies, academia and industry with a focus on “stock resilience in the face of environmental changes” and “topics necessary to respond to newly implemented or future modifications to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.”
  • Language that would direct NOAA to work with Canadian and state fisheries officials to develop a cooperative fisheries management plan in the Gray Zone, an area approximately 10 miles off the coast of Maine between the U.S. and Canada that has been a disputed area between Maine and Canadian lobstermen, with Maine  saying their Canadian counterparts are not following the same regulations, and thus are undermining U.S. protections and threatening the sustainability of the lobster stock. 

The committee also advanced $36.65 million in Congressionally Directed Spending for 17 requests across Maine through the Fiscal Year 2024 CJS appropriations bill. That includes $440,000 for the University of Maine to develop a North Atlantic Right Whale Habitat Characterization Plan.

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