Maine’s lobster industry will receive more than $17 million in support from the federal government as part of the $1.5 trillion omnibus funding package approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday night. The House approved the spending bill earlier this week.

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation helped secure the funding for the lobster industry that was included in the legislation, which the Senate passed 68-31. About $14 million can be used to help lobstermen address the financial  impacts of complying with federal regulations aimed at protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale. The funds will be used to upgrade fishing gear as well as configuration and marking requirements.

The new right whale protection rules are set to take effect in May.

The spending package also allocates more than $760,000 to help the lobster industry plan for the future, while $2.3 million will pay for right whale research, monitoring, conservation and a scientific study of the animal’s migration patterns.

The package is headed to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“NOAA’s own data show that the Maine fishery has never been linked to a right whale death, and the record clearly demonstrates that ship strikes and Canadian fishing activities are major contributors to right whale mortalities,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said in a statement. “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 been warranted.”

“The Maine lobster industry faces an uncertain future as a result of onerous federal regulations that are not based on sound science,” Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said in a statement. “MLA is grateful for the delegation’s efforts to secure this important funding and for their recognition that the government’s flawed plan should be revised so that it protects whales without eliminating the lobster fishery.”

The $17.1 to support Maine’s lobster industry was included in the Fiscal Year 2022 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill.

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