July 22, 2019
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Maine delegation wants Trump to intervene on whale rules that could hurt lobster fleet

Michael Dwyer | AP
Michael Dwyer | AP
In this March 28, 2018, file photo, a North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass.

Maine’s congressional delegation is appealing directly to President Donald Trump to intervene in a federal rulemaking process that aims to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, but which could cause large-scale disruption in this state’s lobster industry.

In a letter to the president Wednesday, Maine’s four members of Congress said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s model rules are based on incomplete data and untested science.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents the 1st District, said Maine lobstermen support action to protect the whales, whose numbers have dwindled to fewer than 420 during the past decade. But she said they should not have to pull half of their rope out of the water, as proposed, without better evidence that their gear is in fact responsible for entanglements.

“My biggest worry was we’re going to ask our fishermen to comply with a whole bunch of new ideas, and it still won’t fix things for the real problems that the right whale is facing today,” Pingree said.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who represents the 2nd District, tweeted an early version of the letter directly to the president’s Twitter account, calling it a Hail Mary. The letter details arguments against NOAA’s proposed actions and suggests that Trump’s intervention would be in line with his regulatory philosophy, but it does not propose a specific remedy.

Conservation groups that are suing for quicker federal action to protect the whales were outraged by the letter. An attorney at the Maine chapter of the Conservation Law Foundation says it shows a disregard for the Endangered Species Act and the plight of the whales themselves.

NOAA and White House officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

 



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