The Draft Biological Opinion (BiOp)

What is the Draft Biological Opinion?

The draft Biological Opinion addresses whether permitting the federal lobster fishery jeopardizes the survival or recovery of right whales. This action is taken under the ESA. The lobster fishery cannot be permitted unless this action is implemented.

The draft BiOp concludes the continued operation of the federal lobster fishery does not jeopardize the right whale population as long at the Conservation Framework is implemented over the next 10 years. This Framework requires a 98% risk reduction for federal fixed gear fisheries (lobster, gillnet and other Atlantic trap/pot fisheries) by 2030. This BiOP includes an Incidental Take Statement (ITS) authorizing ZERO lethal takes of large whales. Non-lethal takes are authorized if the Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPA’s) outlined in the Biop are implemented. A federal judge has already ruled that the lobster fishery cannot be authorized unless an ITS for right whales is in place.

When is this happening?

The Final Biological Opinion must be published by May 31 to comply with the federal court order. The Biop includes a 10-year implementation plan (Conservation Framework). The first action in 2021 implements the Final Rule under the Take Reduction Plan.

Your Voice Matters!

Please submit your comments

Email your Comments to NMFS (due Feb 19)

NOAA is accepting comments “to ensure the information and analyses in the draft Biological Opinion are complete and accurate”.

Relevant information and feedback can be emailed to:

Guidelines for Comments

Who should comment?
Maine’s Coastal Towns and Communities
Anyone who cares about the future of the Maine lobster fishery

Who are you? Tell NMFS who you are and where you live. Lobstermen should include name and port.

Maine’s Lobster Heritage is at Stake

  • •The draft BiOp proposes to implement a 98% lobster fishery risk reduction over 10 years.
  • •This will result in the elimination of the lobster fishery, including 10’s of thousands of jobs, and will erase Maine’s centuries old lobstering heritage.
  • •There is no business model to sustain Maine’s diverse lobster fleet under a 98% risk reduction.
  • •Ropeless fishing is suggested as a path forward. Ropeless fishing is promising where predictable aggregations of whales and fishing overlap. Significant work remains to solve technological, operational, safety and economic challenges before this technology could be adopted for an entire fishery or region.

Risk Reduction Should Match Risk from the Lobster Fishery

  • •Lobstermen stand ready to share responsibility for right whale recovery with other US fisheries, the US shipping industry and Canada’s fishing and shipping industries.
  • •Reducing risk in the lobster fishery by 98% by 2030 will not protect right whales from the impacts of climate change or from threats posed by Canada’s shipping or fishing industries.
  • •Entanglement in lobster gear has declined by 90% since 1990 due to actions taken by lobstermen to removed 27,000 miles of floating groundline in 2009 and 2,540 miles of vertical lines in 2014.
  • •The only confirmed entanglement in Maine lobster gear occurred in 2002 and 2004. These right whales are alive and healthy today.
  • •Research has documented that right whales are rare off Maine’s coast, relative to other areas. Right whales are now observed feeding in large numbers in Canada and in areas off Massachusetts.

Do Not Hold Lobstermen Accountable for Events beyond their Control

  • •US fishermen are being asked to take responsibility for harm to right whales from climate change, the shipping industry and Canadian fisheries.
  • •Climate change has had a measurable and significant impact on the distribution, health and reproduction of right whales since 2010.
  • •From 2016-2019, Canadian fisheries were responsible for 33% of right whale entanglements (compared to 6% US) and 56% of serious injury and mortality (compared to 0% US). The remaining cases are unknown.
  • •The BiOP introduces a new right whale population projection model which determines that shutting down all U.S. federal fixed gear fisheries will result in decline in the right whale population over the next 50 years.
  • •The model assumes that right whales will be harmed by Canadian fisheries and vessel strikes, and the whale’s health and reproduction will be negatively impacted by climate change.

When are comments due?

February 19th, 2021

For more information


Jennifer Anderson,, 978-281-9226

Want to do More?

Support MLA’s Legal Defense Fund!  The Biological Opinion threatens the future of the Maine lobster fishery. NMFS is moving forward with a plan that, for all practical purposes, will eliminate the Maine lobster fishery by 2030. However, without the Biological Opinion in place, NMFS cannot permit the fishery. How the industry responds to this is critical to the future of our fishery and our heritage. In response, the MLA has added 3 new experts to our team to ensure that we leave no stone unturned in our response to these proposals. MLA has hired a ESA/MMPA legal specialist, a policy specialist and a modeler to review and support the MLA in submitting our comments.

We are now in a 10-year fight to #SaveMaineLobstermen. Please make your donation today:

MLA LDF, 2 Storer St, Suite 203, Kennebunk, ME  04043 or

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