In Court

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 were heard in late February 2023.

In a historic victory for Maine’s lobstering families and communities, on June 16, 2023, the US Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and ordered NMFS vacate the 2021 Biological Opinion and to go back to the drawing board and re-work the plan to protect the right whale. The unanimous ruling found NMFS went too far in its analysis of the lobster industry’s potential harm to the endangered whales.

In a statement, MLA policy director Patrice McCarron said, “When the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) made the decision to sue the federal government, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we refused to go down without a fight. Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals is an overwhelming victory for lobstering families and the communities that rely on this industry, and it reaffirms what the MLA has been saying all along – the federal government does not have a blank check to use “worst case scenarios” and disregard actual data in its regulation of the Maine lobster fishery.”

Press Release

Listen: Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement explains MLA’s legal appeal.

Motion to Expedite

Motion to Expedite Granted (October 18, 2022)

Opening Brief (filed November 10, 2022)

U.S. Court of Appeals Decision a Major Win for Maine’s Lobster Industry (June 16, 2023)


Filed January 2023

Maine Lobstermen’s Association

ME Department of Marine Resources

Maine Lobstering Union

Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association


Maine Lobster Fishery Sues Monterey Bay Aquarium

Press Release (March 13, 2023)

BML v. MBA complaint