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Shaheen, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Lobster Industry Afford New Gear

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to support lobstermen by creating a grant program to help them comply with federal regulations that require a change in fishing gear, which reduces the risk of entanglement for highly endangered North Atlantic right whales. The Stewarding Atlantic Fisheries Ecosystems by Supporting Economic Assistance and Sustainability (SAFE SEAS) Act of 2022 will help lobstermen with the financial burden of this transition in gear – which is expected to cost the industry tens of millions of dollars each year.

“The lobster industry is a key economic driver and cultural staple in New Hampshire and across New England. This industry has been operating on thin margins and was particularly hard-hit by the pandemic – it needs assistance like this to afford tens of millions of dollars of required gear updates,” said Shaheen. “This bipartisan bill helps ensure that lobstermen aren’t put out of business and can afford equipment to reduce mortalities of endangered right whales. I’ll keep working in Congress to support our fishing industry as we enhance protections for endangered species.”

“Maine lobstermen and women have always been good stewards of the environment and have taken numerous actions to protect right whales when the science has warranted it,” said Senator Collins.  “As NOAA moves ahead with this rule despite the Maine delegation’s urging against it, our legislation would help alleviate the financial burden our lobstermen and women face. We must ensure that this heritage industry has the assistance it needs to continue to support coastal families and communities for generations to come.”

Senators Collins and Shaheen secured $10 million in a draft appropriations bill to help lobstermen and women cover the cost of complying with the regulation.

Shaheen has been a strong advocate for New Hampshire fishermen. As the Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Shaheen has repeatedly prevented the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from imposing the costly at-sea monitoring fee on Granite State fishermen and once again secured necessary funding to prevent the burden from being imposed on fishermen. Shaheen has also repeatedly secured funding for Northeast groundfish research and lobster research. In FY2021 government funding legislation, Shaheen also worked to include $6 million for Coast Guard fishing safety training and research grants. Shaheen announced nearly $6 million in COVID-19 financial relief for New Hampshire fisheries that she helped secure as part of the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

The Maine Delegation and Governor Janet Mills have been steadfastly opposed to the rule and have worked to lessen the burdens it will impose on the industry. Following the release of the final rule in late August 2021, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills issued a statement in opposition to the rule and highlighting the Maine lobster fishery’s record of repeatedly making significant improvements to their practices and modifications to their gear to protect right whales.  In October 2021, they wrote to Secretary Raimondo to urge her to rescind the rule.  In February 2022, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills urged Secretary Raimondo to postpone the May 1st deadline.