In September 2021, MLA filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s fundamentally flawed 10-year whale plan that will all but eliminate the Maine lobster fishery yet still fail to save the endangered North Atlantic right whale. MLA argues that NMFS has overestimated the lobster industry’s risk to right whales by cherry-picking the science by using unsupported assumptions and “worst-case scenarios” to justify its mandate for Maine’s lobster fishery to reduce its already minimal risk to right whales by 98-percent. MLA claims that NMFS also failed to follow mandatory legal requirements to assess the economic and social costs of their action.
On September 8, 2022, a federal judge in Washington, DC ruled against MLA in an opinion that deferred to the federal agency on all counts without disputing the validity of MLA’s concerns. As a result, NMFS is now fast-tracking the 10-year whale plan.
In November 2022, the judge ruled that National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would have until December 2024 to issue new rules. However, the Maine congressional delegation and Governor Mills announced in December 2022 that they were successful in securing a 6-year “regulatory pause” for Maine’s lobster industry in the Omnibus appropriations bill which would delay new rules until December 2028. President Biden signed this bill into law on December 29, 2022.
Meantime, MLA’s critical lawsuit continues. On October 11, 2022, MLA announced it has retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and has filed for expedited consideration of its appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That motion was granted on October 18 and oral arguments in MLA’s appeal are set for late February 2023.
Motion to Expedite
Motion to Expedite Granted (October 18, 2022)
Opening Brief (filed November 10, 2022)
Filed January 2023
Maine Lobstermen’s Association
ME Department of Marine Resources
Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association
Maine Lobster Fishery Sues Monterey Bay Aquarium
Press Release (March 13, 2023)