“Prince of Whales” threatens suit to end Maine lobster licensing



In his notice of intent to file a lawsuit against federal and state commerce and marine fisheries regulators, New Hampshire activist Max Strahan contends the act of “licensing” fisheries requiring the use of vertical buoy lines on lobster traps” is, in itself, a violation of the ESA “categorically prohibited” under the federal and Maine Endangered Species Acts. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY LETITIA BALDWIN

ELLSWORTH — Max Strahan is threatening to go to court. Again.

Known by many in the conservation community,  fisheries managers and members of the lobster industry as the “Prince of Whales” in recognition of his frequent federal court litigation aimed at protecting endangered right whales and other endangered marine species, on Thursday, Oct. 1, Strahan filed a 60-day notice of his intention to file another lawsuit under the federal and Maine Endangered Species Acts.

The suit is against the secretary of commerce, the heads of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service and Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

In his notice, Strahan claims that the act of “licensing” fisheries requiring the use of vertical buoy lines on lobster traps” is, in itself, a violation of the ESA “categorically prohibited” under the law. Strahan also claims that “every individual who deploys vertical buoy ropes … of the Maine coast” — that is, every lobsterman or other fisherman who uses gear rigged with buoy lines, licensed by DMR — is also engaged in prohibited activity.

Strahan says he will ask the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., for an injunction to stop DMR from issuing licenses, beginning in 2021, for fisheries using the methods he claims violate the ESA. According to Strahan, the federal court must issue the injunction “without regard to any adverse impact on commerce.”

Strahan is also asserting a claim against DMR under the Maine Tort Claims Act for damages in the amount of $100,000 “for every entanglement of an endangered whale and sea turtle” since 1973 caused by fisheries caused by gear licensed by the state.

On Thursday afternoon, DMR Commissioner Keliher declined to comment on Strahan’s claims because DMR is already involved in litigation with him now pending in the U.S. District Court in Maine.

Last year, Strahan filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Bangor, listing his name as “Man Against Xtinction,” against Keliher and the assistant administrator of the NMFS as defendants.

He is asking the court to rule that the decision by NMFS to allow the Maine lobster fishery to continue violates the law governing federal administrative procedures and, consequently, the ESA.

The complaint also asks the court to issue an injunction against the state and federal governments against allowing further fishing.

That suit is still pending, as is a federal lawsuit Strahan filed against Massachusetts fisheries regulators making similar allegations about licensing of the lobster fishery constituting a violation of the ESA.

In May, Judge Indira Talwani of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts gave state fisheries regulators 90 days to get an “incidental take permit” under the ESA from the federal fisheries service for endangered whales or Strahan would be allowed to renew his request for an injunction that would close the Massachusetts lobster fishery. The fishery was worth some $81 million to Massachusetts fishermen in 2017.

Talwani ruled that Strahan would likely be able to show that vertical buoy have harmed and will continue to harm the whales despite substantial efforts of state agencies and local fishermen to protect them.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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