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Advocacy and Education

The Maine lobster fishery is one of the oldest continuously operated industries in the United States. For more than 180 years, the tradition of lobstering has been passed down for generations and is a cornerstone of Maine’s culture, heritage, and economy. It is renowned as one of the world’s most sustainable fisheries and consistently among the most valuable fisheries in the United States. The Maine lobster fishery generates more than $2 billion annually in sales and supply chain revenue to the region’s economy. Maine’s lobster fleet is made up of a diverse collection of small businesses supporting tens of thousands of jobs in rural communities along the coast. The fishery directly supports more than 12,000 jobs as Captains and sternmen who work aboard the vessels to haul in Maine’s signature catch. Maine’s wholesale lobster distribution supply chain contributes an additional $967 million and another 5,500 jobs. Lobster dollars are the first dollars spent in Maine's coastal communities. By law, every Maine lobsterman is a small, self-employed business owner. Each runs his or her own boat and lives, works, and spends earnings locally, making lobster dollars the foundation of Maine’s coastal economy.

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Offshore Wind

 

The government has set lofty goals to develop offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine to meet renewable energy targets. In 2021, the state of Maine applied to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for a lease to build a commercial offshore wind research array while BOEM is simultaneously moving forward with its commercial offshore wind leasing process for Gulf of Maine by 2025.

  

The MLA opposes offshore wind development. The MLA advocates that BOEM not consider any offshore wind development in Lobster Management Area 1 which accounts for 94% of all U.S. lobster landings. The MLA has been highly engaged in this process to ensure that the concerns of Maine’s lobstermen over the industrialization of the Gulf of Maine are considered at every step of the process.   

North Atlantic Right Whales

 

For more than 25 years, the MLA has been a leader in right whale conservation. MLA advocates for common sense regulations to protect endangered right whales while preserving Maine’s lobstering heritage. MLA has worked with lobstermen to implement a suite of whale-safe gear innovations resulting in the removal of tens of thousands of miles of rope from the ocean, reducing entanglement in lobster gear by 90% since 2010. MLA is committed to ensuring a safe environment in which both the endangered right whale and the Maine lobster fishery can thrive.

Innovative Gear Testing

 

Maine lobstermen catch lobsters by deploying traps along the ocean floor, connected to a buoy at the surface. Over the last two decades, MLA has partnered with research institutions to test a variety of potential whale safe gear innovations including weak rope, glow rope, stiff rope, colored ropes, braided sleeves, time tension line cutters, tag lines and timed releases. MLA has also worked with lobstermen to map effort in the lobster fishery and worked with researchers to develop a risk model. MLA published a report describing how Gulf of Maine lobster gear is rigged and fished.  

We need your help.

OUR WORK TO PROTECT MAINE'S LOBSTERING HERITAGE CONTINUES...

As a result of the June 2023 Appeals Court ruling, the Biological Opinion and the ten-year whale plan (along with its draconian 98-percent risk reduction), are no longer valid, and a law passed by Congress in December 2022 gives the industry some breathing room. To keep our fishery open, Maine lobstermen must continue to fish under the current whale protection rules. Meantime, NMFS must develop and implement a new Biological Opinion and Final Whale Rule by the end of 2028 without skewing the science against the Maine lobster fishery. Meantime, MLA will need the financial resources required to continue to advocate strongly for a plan that will protect whales without sacrificing the lobster fishery and Maine’s lobstering heritage. Your ongoing support is critical. Please consider donating.

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MLA WINS HISTORIC APPEAL!

On June 16, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the MLA in its appeal of a lower court ruling in Maine Lobstermen's Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service.In its ruling, the Court wrote: “In this case, we decide whether, in a biological opinion, the Service must, or even may, when faced with uncertainty, give the “benefit of the doubt” to an endangered species by relying upon worst-case scenarios or pessimistic assumptions. We hold it may not. The ESA and the implementing regulations call for an empirical judgment about what is “likely.” The Service’s role as an expert is undermined, not furthered, when it distorts that scientific judgment by indulging in worst-case scenarios and pessimistic assumptions to benefit a favored side.”

2020's

MLA leads the lobster industry’s effort to save Maine’s lobster fishery and endangered right whales. MLA sued the federal government challenging the draconian 10 year whale plan. MLA asserts the government’s plan relies on arbitrary assumptions and ignores the best available science. MLA is also an intervenor in litigation brought against the federal government by environmental groups seeking more stringent whale protections.

2010's

MLA pushed for an area-based approach to Whale rules keeping 70% of Maine waters exempt from the Federal Whale rules. MLA continued to fight to keep draggers out of lobster and for smart management of herring and menhaden.

2000's

MLA fought for a stable bait supply by protecting the inshore herring fishery and developing new research to measure the size of the herring stock.

1990's

MLA fought to prevent unlimited dragging of lobsters in offshore waters outside of Maine through the 100 per day, 500 per trip limits.

1980's

MLA fought to keep draggers out of the fishery, again, and convinced managers to accept Maine’s core conservation practices of v-notching, maximum 5”, and minimum 3 ¼” gauges.

1970's

MLA convinced Congress to pass a law saving Maine lobstermen thousands of dollars each year by not paying payroll taxes on sternmen.

1960's

MLA persuaded politicians that lobster traps are the only gear that should catch lobsters and draggers were kept out.

MLA’s Work has Shaped Today’s Successful Fishery

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Keeping our Members Informed

The MLA works with its partner organization, the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance (MLCA), to publish and distribute the monthly lobster industry newspaper, Landings, to all Maine lobstermen. The paper includes the MLA Pages, with updates on MLA’s ongoing work.

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