During the past six months, the MLA has dedicated the majority of its resources to fight for fair treatment of Maine lobstermen in the face of the emerging federal whale rules. Given our limited staff and resources, we realized that to be effective in representing lobstermen’s concerns, the MLA must expand our legal team and our financial resources.
Thus I am excited to introduce Jane Luxton of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Lewis Brisbois as a new member of the MLA’s legal team. Jane will work closely with MLA staff and MLA’s long-time attorney, Mary Anne Mason. She has extensive experience in the federal regulatory process, having served as former general counsel for NOAA during the Bush administration from 2007-2009. Jane knows the federal process from the inside out and will ensure that the MLA’s perspective is elevated to the highest levels.
In late August, the MLA sent a letter to the head of NOAA Fisheries, Chris Oliver, asking NMFS to step up and do its job by using the best available data to address threats from all fisheries that affect the recovery of right whales. The MLA identified to NOAA a number of significant errors in the agency’s analysis of data on sources of human-caused risk to whales; currently the agency is reviewing the points we raised. It is clear that the rule being developed by NMFS will do little to prevent future deaths or serious injury to right whales in Canadian waters, which is where the majority of such events have occurred in recent years. As NOAA has stated many times, protecting every individual right whale is a priority in order to avoid the species’ extinction. The MLA will continue to push NMFS to actually do that.
Our point is this: regulating U.S. fishermen will not prevent right whales from dying in Canada and applying future regulations only to New England lobstermen will not solve entanglement problems in the U.S. The MLA will argue our case through the regulatory process and the courts, with federal agency staff, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and our elected officials. We also are educating the media and the public about all that Maine lobstermen have done to protect right whales and that they remain diligent in keeping the Gulf of Maine safe for the species.
The MLA has been leading the fight against rules that unfairly target Maine lobstermen for more than 20 years. The association stands ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that Maine lobstermen are treated fairly and that future management actions are safe, effective and necessary. Having Jane Luxton on our team will expand the MLA’s ability to demand accountability from NMFS in this management process. She will be another potent voice to champion the interests of all Maine lobstermen.
Make no mistake, hiring an additional lawyer was not a decision made lightly. But Maine lobstermen are facing a truly existential threat right now, one that could cripple the fishery in a matter of years. Many of you have children or nephews or nieces who are now fishing or want to fish when they get older. The federal laws protecting right whales may make their aspirations impossible to achieve. The MLA believes that with added legal clout, we can keep those futures open to them.
The MLA is calling for all Maine lobstermen and any who care about the future of the Maine lobster industry to support the MLA and the MLA Legal Defense Fund. The MLA is the only organization in the state to represent the lobster industry on most issues that affect you and your community. Your MLA membership will ensure that the association continues to have the staff it needs to effectively represent the lobster industry. Your donation to the MLA Legal Defense Fund will ensure that the MLA can fully utilize our talented legal team by remaining active in the pending court case and that we can prevail in calling for fair treatment of Maine lobstermen.
To do so demands an incredible amount of time and energy. Please take a moment to join us in this fight!