News Feature

Washington, D.C.
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 10, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, November 10, 2022
Maine delegation announces $1.2 million to strengthen lobster industry, improve research

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Representative Chellie Pingree, have announced that two Maine organizations will be receiving a total of $1.2 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant American Lobster Initiative to support the health of Maine’s lobster industry and help lobstermen adapt to any potential regulatory changes.

The funding will be used by the Maine Department of Marine Resources to research new, innovative gear technology, and by the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation to improve information and communications systems for lobstermen. These grants come after the Maine delegation included language in the 2022 appropriations package that required Sea Grant to utilize this funding to support gear modernization, according to a press release.

“The lobster industry is an integral part of Maine’s economy, plays a central role in our communities, and represents our state around the world. It is more than a fishery—it’s part of our identity,” said Senators Collins and King and Representative Pingree in the release. “With the industry facing new regulatory challenges from NOAA, these funds are a critical step to give our lobstermen the resources and gear options they need to stay in business. It is simply unacceptable for NOAA to demand changes of the Maine lobster industry without providing them the resources to do so—that is why we secured this funding in last year’s appropriations bill, and why we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the country’s most valuable and iconic fishery. There’s more to be done to secure the long-term health and success of our coastal communities, but this is real progress.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

$750,000 for the Maine Department of Marine Resources to test and evaluate various lobster gear modification technologies. The project will collect information on the performance of these systems by outfitting voluntary lobster industry participants across multiple fishing areas with the prototype gear. The data will be used to determine the implications of NOAA’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan and develop adaptations to help lobstermen meet compliance with the plan.

$404,564 for the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation to provide lobstermen with new data imaging and communications tools needed to navigate a changing environmental and regulatory landscape. The researchers will outfit dozens of commercial vessels with micro-computers, sensors, and various ship-to-shore communication modes that can help lobstermen provide real-time data to the shore and the rest of the fleet.

The Sea Grant American Lobster Initiative, funded by NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, addresses critical knowledge gaps about American lobster and its iconic fishery in a dynamic and changing environment. The initiative, which began in 2019 after Collins and Pingree secured its inclusion through their work on Senate and House Appropriations Committees, supports both scientific research and a regional Sea Grant extension program in the Northeast. Together, the research and extension components of this initiative develop and share new knowledge and understanding with industry stakeholders and resource managers from Maine to New York.

The Maine delegation recently secured $17,065,000 to support Maine’s lobster industry in the Fiscal Year 2022 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. Included in the bill was language requiring NOAA to direct funding towards gear modernization.