PORTLAND, Maine — Dozens of lobstermen from around the state came to the DiMillo’s restaurant parking lot in Portland on Wednesday to say they need help to keep their industry—and Maine’s economy—alive.
The rally came the day after public comment closed on NOAA’s consideration of drastic fishery regulations aimed at protecting the right whale—an endangered species, but one that has never seen a fatality in Maine lobster gear. The new regulations include increasing zone closures and limits on traps and vertical lines.
"NOAA should be promoting Maine as whale-safe lobster, not closing us down," Virginia Olsen from the Maine Lobstering Union and an organizer of the event, said.
Fisherman after fisherman took to the makeshift stage to defend their industry's importance to the state, and its record with the giant sea mammal.
"They do not swim in the areas we fish; their food source is out beyond where we fish," Dwight Staples said, a lobsterman and boat builder who said both of his careers, and that of his sternman, would be over if the regulations were implemented. "If Maine were a problem to the right whale, surely we would see dead whales along our coastline. But we do not, because right whales are not where we fish."
One argument brought by the majority of speakers was the want for Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey to make the state a plaintiff in a lawsuit against NOAA and the U.S. government.
On Wednesday, Congressman Jared Golden, D-ME2, addressed the crowd and joined the lobstermen, as well as Republicans, in this request.
"We need to call on whoever’s in the Blaine House, anyone that’s involved in state politics, we got to step up and lead the charge,” Golden said. "I really believe the only thing that can save you in the short term is fighting this all the way to the Supreme Court."
The attorney general’s office has intervened in multiple lawsuits related to lobster regulations since 2021, and an AG spokesperson told NEWS CENTER Maine Wednesday they have worked on these issues at a historic level.
“The State, through outside counsel, is currently making the same arguments and putting forth the same defenses that would be made whether we filed a separate lawsuit or intervened," the spokesperson wrote. "Filing a third lawsuit, with the same arguments on the same issues, would be legally insignificant.”
Despite the attorney general intervening in these recent cases, the people who spoke at the rally believed that was not enough.