Maine pols call for grant program to help with lobster rules

March 8, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The members of Maine’s congressional delegation are calling for the creation of a federal grant program to help the lobster industry cope with new rules designed to save whales.

Federal authorities have implemented new restrictions on lobster harvesting in hundreds of miles of productive fishing waters off the Maine coast to try to protect North Atlantic right whales. That’s among a host of new rules intended to save the whales, which number less than 340 in the world.

Members of the New England lobster fishing industry, which is based largely in Maine, have said the rules will cause severe economic harm to one of the region’s oldest industries.

The four members of the Maine delegation on Tuesday announced a proposed grant program that would provide assistance for fiscal years 2022 to 2024 to help cover the cost compliance with new rules. The states would get money for the program in proportion to their number of lobstermen.

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The grants would help “ensure that this heritage industry has the assistance it needs to continue to support coastal families and communities for generations to come,” said Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

Defenders of the fishing restrictions have said they’re necessary to prevent lethal entanglement of whales in gear.