Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 27, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, October 27, 2022
MLA motion to expedite appeal granted
Submitted by Kevin Kelley, director of advancement on behalf of the Maine lobstermen’s association
KENNEBUNK—On October 18, a federal appeals court sided with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association in granting the MLA’s request to expedite consideration of its appeal of the decision in Maine Lobstermen’s Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service. The Court rarely grants motions to expedite, according to a press release.
On October 11, the MLA announced that it has retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and had filed for expedited consideration of MLA’s appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in its lawsuit to reverse a scientifically-flawed federal whale plan that will cripple Maine’s lobster industry.
In granting the motion for expedited appeal, the court laid out a timeline that requires all briefs to be submitted by January 10, 2023.
“We are pleased that the appeals court understands the urgency of hearing our argument that National Marine Fisheries Service has abused its discretion and that its current whale plan will not only destroy our industry and our livelihoods, but also won’t recover the right whale,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the MLA.
In September 2021, MLA filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s fundamentally flawed 10-year whale protection 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 and 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 actions.
On September 8, 2022, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., 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 and will require Maine’s lobster industry to implement an unachievable 90-percent “risk reduction” as quickly as possible or the federal lobster fishery could be shutdown.
The Maine lobster fishery is essential to Maine’s culture, heritage and economy and has supported communities and generations of families while ensuring that this important natural resource is sustainably harvested for nearly two centuries. There are approximately 4,750 commercially licensed lobstermen and 1,085 student license holders in the state. Maine’s lobster fleet directly supports more than 12,000 jobs on the water. In addition to the harvesters, the shoreside wholesale lobster sector, that is, the lobster supply chain, supports an additional 5,500 jobs and generates an additional $1 billion annually—which just begins to touch upon the real value of the fishery to the state. Lobster directly infuses myriad sectors of Maine’s economy from real estate to hotels, restaurants, trucking companies, auto dealerships and banks, to name a few.
The MLA is the oldest and largest fishing industry association on the East Coast, established in 1954. In 2021, MLA launched its #SaveMaineLobstermen campaign with a four-pronged approach to preserve the industry and protect the endangered whales. The plan includes aggressive legal and policy strategies, ensuring decisions are based on sound science, innovating effective conservation strategies and communication.
More information on the issue and documents supporting MLA’s court case can be found at savemainelobstermen.org/in-court.