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Sara Gideon “grateful” for endorsement from group attacking Maine lobster industry

Sara Gideon in a campaign video in early July 2020.

FREEPORT, ME – She may not be willing to bring the Maine Legislature back to work on helping the people of Maine suffering through the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, but Speaker Sara Gideon was “grateful” for an endorsement she received yesterday. That endorsement, however, is likely to cause concern from Mainers who care about the lobster industry as the group Gideon is touting the political endorsement from has been involved in a persistent assault on Maine’s lobstermen and women for years.

The endorsement Gideon says she is grateful for comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The non-profit environmental group with a reputation for taking more extreme positions, is notorious among those in Maine’s marine resource industry for pushing for regulations that many say will destroy the lobster industry.

At the core of the issue is the NRDC’s belief, despite much solid evidence, that fishing lines attached to lobster pots in the Gulf of Maine cause right whales, an endangered species, to become entangled in the lines, sometimes killing the whale.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, former Governor Paul LePage, writing in defense of Maine lobstermen and women, wrote, “No whale deaths due to entanglements or ship strikes have been recorded in Maine waters since 1998.”

Others say right whales are rarely spotted in Maine’s lobstering waters.

Officials with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can only point to one right whale death in or near Maine waters where there was evidence of any entanglement, and even then, they could not attribute the death to entanglement.

That hasn’t stopped the NRDC, who now endorses Gideon, from advocating for harsh restrictions on Maine lobster fishing.

Among other things, the NRDC has pushed for a sharp reduction in the number of lobster pots Maine’s licensed lobstermen and women can deploy, criticizing a recently proposed reduction of 25% as not going “nearly far enough.” That cut would have eliminated a quarter of the lobster pots Maine lobstermen and women could use, but it was not enough of a cut for the NRDC.

All four members of Maine’s Congressional Delegation have drawn the ire of the NRDC for standing in defense of Maine’s lobster industry against the NRDC and their allied groups. The fault line became clear when, at a rally in Stonington in support of the lobster industry, Sara Gideon was the only member of Maine’s elected leadership not to attend.

The Stonington rally was in opposition to a proposal for a 50% reduction in lines and pots Maine’s licensed lobstermen and women are allowed to deploy. Governor Janet Mills, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Senate President Troy Jackson all attended to oppose the 50% reduction proposal.

The NRDC has also advocated for regulations requiring only ropeless lobstering gear and closing some lobster fishery areas. Those in the lobster industry point out that effective ropeless lobstering gear is not even available on the market.

The NRDC is also suing the Trump Administration in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump from reclassifying an area of the north Atlantic that had previously been blocked to commercial fishing by President Obama. President Trump was lauded by those in the fishing industry for reversing the Obama action during his trip to Maine in June, where he announced the action.

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