Biden’s Policies Threaten Small Lobster Fishers and Right Whales

Published June 17, 2024

As we approach National Lobster Day, it’s fair to ask how long we’ll have that day to celebrate, or the delicious crustacean to dine on.

Maybe not long, unless you are part of the elite, if President Joe Biden has his way.

And what’s true of National Lobster Day and small, family, lobster fishers is true of the North Atlantic right whale (NARW) as well.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an office in the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), issued restrictions on Maine’s lobster fishers to protect NARW’s from entanglement with lobster fishing gear.

Maine’s lobster fishing industry is being unfairly targeted by the new rule and has challenged it in court. In a lawsuit, its representatives claim the new rules would decimate the industry, forcing the majority of lobstermen, who are family-owned, single-boat operators, to cease operations. This would leave only a few large-scale operators, who have permits to operate in federal as well as state waters, catching lobster in Maine’s waters. Once again, powerful corporate interests, “Friends of Joe,” you might call them, benefit at the expense of small business owners.

Let’s examine some facts. Although entanglement in fishing gear was implicated in nine NARW deaths since 2017 (all but one of which occurred before 2020) and 19 serious injuries, none of these deaths were caused by entanglement with lobster fishing gear. NOAA’s own data covering all whale species show discarded fishing nets, long-line fishing gear, monofilament, and nets—all tied to large scale commercial fishing operations, the vast majority of whom are overseas operators fishing in international waters—are responsible for most whale entanglement injuries.

From 2020 to 2022, NOAA has determined that no right whales were injured from entanglement in Maine lobster fishing gear. Evidence cited in the lawsuit filed by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the State of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources indicate that there has never been a documented whale death or serious injury linked to the Maine lobster fishery.

While lobstermen likely haven’t been contributing to NARW deaths, it is undisputed that vessel strikes, both in U.S. and foreign waters, have. Which brings us to the Biden administration’s decision to construct thousands of offshore wind turbines smack-dab in the middle of the whale’s migration route and habitat. Biden’s East Coast offshore wind initiative could qualify as an extinction level event for the North Atlantic right whale.

The NARW has been listed as endangered ever since the Endangered Species Act was adopted in 1973—and also as “depleted” under the Marine Mammals Protection Act since it was enacted in 1972. Collisions with ships are the single biggest human-caused reason for whale deaths in U.S. waters, which is why the NMFS imposed stricter speed restrictions on vessels traveling through migration corridors and critical habitat.

Despite this, the Biden administration plans to build 30,000 megawatts of traditional offshore wind facilities (with structures attached to the ocean floor) in federal waters by 2030, and an additional 15,000 megawatts of floating industrial offshore wind power by 2035.

This means hundreds of additional ships and service boats traversing the whales’ migration routes and breeding and feeding habitats, during construction, making thousands of round trips. Even after construction has ended, service boats will pass in and out of the area to perform maintenance and repairs. Increasing boat and ship traffic significantly raises the chances of additional ship strikes on the whales.

In addition, the sound produced when anchoring the offshore turbines, during their construction and throughout their operational lives, is almost certain to drive NARWs into busy shipping lanes, almost guaranteeing more vessel strikes. Who says so? Why, Sean Hayes, chief of the protected species branch at NOAA’s National Northeast Fisheries Science Center, who, in a letter to the Interior Department objecting to the reckless expansion of offshore wind, wrote, [a]dditional noise, vessel traffic and habitat modifications due to offshore wind development will likely cause added stress that could result in additional population consequences to a species that is already experiencing rapid decline.”

In sum, despite no demonstrated history of Maine lobster traps killing or significantly harming whales, Biden and his cronies have decided that small lobster fishers’ activities must be severely curtailed to prevent harm to the NARW, while with a wink and a nod (and a lot of campaign donations, one suspects) the construction of whale decimating wind farms proceeds apace off the coasts of Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Yeah, “Lunch Bucket Joe” is really concerned about the whales and small family run businesses.