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Court agrees to expedite Maine lobstermen’s case against whale rule

AP News | October 24, 2022

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal appeals court agreed to expedite a lawsuit by fishermen over new rules intended to protect rare whales.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association is appealing a judge’s rejection of the lawsuit to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The fishermen asked for the court to expedite the case, and the court agreed to do so Oct. 18.

Lobstermen Riley Austin, left, and Ed Hutchins load the Christina Mae II with traps on the Cape Porpoise pier on May 3, 2022.
Lobstermen Riley Austin, left, and Ed Hutchins load the Christina Mae II with traps on the Cape Porpoise pier on May 3, 2022.

The lobster fishermen sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to try to stop the regulators from placing the new restrictions on fishing. The fishermen contend the new restrictions are a major threat to the economic health of the industry and that their appeal should be considered swiftly. The rules are intended to protect North Atlantic right whales. The whales number less than 340 and are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear.

On Oct. 11, the Maine Lobster Association announced that it retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement as its attorney and had filed for expedited consideration of MLA’s appeal. In granting the motion, the court laid out a timeline that requires all briefs to be submitted by Jan. 10, 2023.

Previous story: Maine lobstermen hire Bush-era official in challenge to whale laws

“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.

The American lobster fishery is based mostly in Maine, though lobsters also come to the docks elsewhere in New England and in New York and New Jersey. U.S. lobsters were worth a record figure of more than $900 million at the docks last year.