Legal Defense Fund
Donations to the Legal Defense Fund are vital. Without legal representation, the MLA cannot effectively influence the outcome of federal rulemaking or court cases. These actions will have lasting repercussions for ALL Maine lobstermen for years to come.
The Legal Defense Fund supports the MLA’s legal representation on issues that threaten Maine’s lobster industry. The MLA is an intervener in a lawsuit filed by several national environmental organizations to require the lobster industry adopt more stringent whale protection measures such as ropeless fishing and closures. As a court-recognized intervener, the MLA advocates for Maine lobstermen throughout the proceedings, and if and when any settlement is discussed.
The MLA is fighting NMFS’ over-reaching 60% risk reduction target and the assignment of responsibility for reducing entanglement risk to right whales solely to the lobster fishery. NMFS’ contemplated rules for lobstermen are over-reaching and would have devastating impacts on our fishery and communities.
The MLA’s analysis showed that the NMFS’ stipulated 60% risk reduction is unsupported by the best available data. First, NMFS incorrectly allocated the full responsibility for U.S. risk reduction to the Northeast lobster fishery, ignoring the role of other fisheries known to entangle right whales. Second, NMFS under-represented the role of Canadian fisheries in its calculations by ignoring the most recent entanglement data. Third, NMFS did not investigate trends in right whale entanglement in unknown gear. As a result, the data presented to the Take Reduction Team and fishing industry overstated the share of risk attributable to the Northeast lobster fishery and downplayed the role of other gears and Canada.
The MLA has determined that NMFS entanglement data contained errors that significantly impact our understanding of human causes of serious injury and mortality to right whales. MLA’s findings reveal that from 2010 – 2018, the Canadian snow crab fishery accounts for 31% of right whale serious injury and mortality, gillnet and netting gear 13%, unknown trap/pot gear 4%, and U.S. trap/pot gearjust 4%. U.S. and Canadian vessel strikes account for the remaining 48%. NMFS is required to use the best available information and they have clearly not met that standard under this current rulemaking.
The MLA’s review of the data also revealed that current whale protection measures have been effective. Changes to the right whale plan in 2009 and 2014 resulted in a strong downward trend in the incidence of entanglement cases involving U.S. lobster gear from seven cases prior to 2010 to only one case, a non-serious injury in Massachusetts lobster gear – since then.
The data show only one confirmed right whale entanglement in Maine lobster gear in 2002, with no known serious injuries or mortalities attributable to that gear. NMFS’ data also show that ropes removed from right whales in recent years are not representative of ropes used in Maine’s lobster fishery.
Donations to the Legal Defense Fund are vital. Remember, without legal representation, the MLA cannot effectively influence the outcome of federal rulemaking or ongoing court cases.
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