Federal Appeals Court Rules for Maine Lobstermen on Right Whales
AU.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in favor of Maine lobstermen in ordering the National Marine Fisheries Service to vacate a 2021 biological opinion regarding North Atlantic right whales that led to more stringent rules being implemented for lobster fishing.
The unanimous 3-0 ruling, filed with a majority opinion written by U.S. Senior Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg, found the service went too far in its analysis of the lobster and Jonah crab industries’ potential harm to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Maine Lobstermen’s Association Executive Director Patrice McCarron said the ruling is welcome news for the lobster industry after years of court battles stemming from the issuance of the revised biological opinion.
“When the Maine Lobstermen’s Association made the decision to sue the federal government, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we refused to go down without a fight,” McCarron said. “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.”
The court’s ruling found NMFS overstepped its authority when it used worst-case scenarios and pessimistic assumptions in its crafting of its biological opinion, which required it to create new rules, which required lobster fishermen to switch to new gear.