Letter to Editor: Rules need sound science

To the Editor:

On June 20, I tried to pass an amendment through the House to freeze new regulations on Maine lobstermen. The regulations, intended to prevent entanglements in lobster gear by right whales, were created using an unproven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data tool that relied on old data, faulty assumptions, and hadn’t been peer reviewed. My amendment would have required the government to show it was using accurate data before it forces huge changes on Maine’s lobster industry.

Unfortunately, my amendment fell short and the way it happened makes my blood boil. It showed just how dysfunctional Washington — and our politics — have become. Ahead of the vote, environmental groups sent out emails presenting a binary choice: save the whales or support the lobstermen. But most of us know it’s not that simple. It should be possible to take steps to protect right whales and to work to limit the damage to lobstermen’s livelihoods.

NOAA’s data tool is flawed and the process used to develop the regulations was rushed. It is beyond my understanding why any professional would first take action, and only later carry out a peer review to determine if its actions were effective or necessary. That is a failed process and one that promises to deliver few positive results for right whales and big negative impacts for Maine lobstermen.

The odds were long on this amendment, but the way it was voted down today makes my blood boil. Members of my party ignored the economic hardship this will have on lobstermen, which was easy for them since most of them don’t represent any lobstermen. My Republican colleagues were no better. These actions are also frustrating given how often many lawmakers in both parties talk to me about how much they love to eat lobster.

I care about the environment and about right whales, but I also care about the people I represent. For years now, Maine lobstermen have made sacrifices with almost no measurable effect on right whales. My amendment simply required the government to ensure the use of sound science and reliable data before it demands even more from our lobstermen. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. It’s common sense. Today’s result is a product of a failure of government on the part of NOAA and a failure of policymaking on the part of Congress.

Rep. Jared Golden


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