EXCLUSIVE: Democratic Maine Rep. Jared Golden blasted the Biden administration for targeting his state’s lobster industry with eco regulations while ignoring the environmental impacts of offshore wind projects.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Golden said the federal government has held Maine lobstermen to an unfair standard over their impacts on the endangered North Atlantic right whale species compared to how it has treated offshore wind developers and other ocean-based industries. He added the administration’s actions were aimed at appeasing environmental groups that have similarly targeted lobstermen.
“The hypocrisy part is what pisses me off because we know that right whales, other whales, get struck by freight vessels all the time. Cruise ships that are out there carting people around hit them,” he told Fox News Digital. “You see very little effort by the federal government to do anything.”
“And yet they see a small business lobster fishery up in Maine that’s not politically important to them and they try to crush it just to try to prove to the environmental groups that they’re actively trying to protect the right whales,” he continued.
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In recent years, federal agencies have attempted to crack down on Maine’s lobster fishery despite scant evidence of whale impacts. Lobster industry groups, though, have pointed to federal data which shows that there has never been a recorded right whale death caused by lobster fishing equipment in Maine and the last recorded whale entanglement in fishing gear came more than two decades ago.
Industry groups and lawmakers including Golden have also said the rules, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) first rolled out in May 2022 with more set for 2024 and 2030, would threaten thousands of blue-collar jobs. Maine’s lobster industry — which by state law is made up entirely of small business operators — provides the U.S. with about 90% of the nation’s lobster supply, making the industry a top economic driver in the state, and boosting other related industries as well.
At the same time, the government in recent months has repeatedly defended offshore wind projects in the face of an unprecedented uptick in whale deaths and widespread calls for a moratorium on offshore wind development until the deaths are further studied. More than 20 whale deaths have been recorded along the East Coast since December with most coming in New Jersey, New York and Virginia where large wind projects are under development.
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“Am I concerned about hypocrisy in how the federal government deals with like the Maine lobster fishery, as opposed to big energy projects?” Golden continued. “The answer is 100% yes, because for four years now, I have been constantly harassing the federal government to show us one piece of evidence that Maine’s lobster fishery is at all responsible for any kind of entanglement of whales let alone a death of a right whale.”
“They can’t show any field-gathered data,” he said. “All they have are these computer-driven formulas that show risk even though it’s been almost 20 years since there was a whale entanglement associated with the Maine lobster fishery. Despite the complete lack of any data they’ve tried to regulate that fishery nearly out of business.”
Last week, Golden joined Reps. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Andy Harris, R-Md., in writing a letter to federal officials demanding more information about the risks offshore wind projects pose to marine wildlife. They noted that wind leases occupy more than 1.7 million acres of waters along the Atlantic coastline, a vast area that will become a large wind turbine construction zone over the next decade.
The letter also highlighted a 2022 internal memo from Sean Hayes, NOAA’s chief of protected species, who stated that “oceanographic impacts from installed and operating turbines cannot be mitigated” and would particularly impact the dwindling right whale population.
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“Offshore wind development and deployment stands to be a consequential national undertaking, which is why our approach should be done correctly the first time, with full consideration taken in order to mitigate negative impacts on marine species such as the North Atlantic right whale,” the letter concluded.
In addition, Golden directed his ire at environmental groups that have maintained attacks on Maine’s lobster industry. Last year, California-based Monterey Bay Aquarium — which has commitments from companies like Blue Apron, Cheesecake Factory, Hello Fresh and Whole Foods — downgraded Maine lobster from “good alternative” to “avoid,” citing risks the state’s fishery poses to endangered North Atlantic right whales.
“I put a bill in last year to try and take away all their federal funding because their designation that the Maine lobster fishery is not sustainable because of right whales is not based on science,” the Maine Democrat told Fox News Digital.
“If they’re going to be a scientific organization that’s going to receive federal research dollars, then they should have to actually put out real science,” he added. “It’s just more bulls— coming out of these groups who I think — it has more to do with their fundraising circles and it’s a real insular group of people.”
“They go in and out of administrations, they work in NOAA, they leave NOAA, they go work at these aquariums, etc.,” Golden said.
While the Monterey Bay Aquarium has maintained its “avoid” red-listing of Maine’s lobster fishery, after pressure from Golden, his fellow Maine congressional delegation members, state leaders and industry groups, a bill prohibiting the government from implementing additional regulations targeting the lobster industry for six years was included in the appropriations package President Biden signed into law late last year.