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Susan Collins holds up NOAA nominee over lobstering rules intended to protect right whales

Senate FBI
Ting Shen
Pool Bloomberg via AP
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget for the FBI in Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

In a bid to defend Maine's lobster industry against federal regulations that aim to protect endangered whales, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Wednesday prevented Senate action on a nominee to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"NOAA is imposing onerous, possibly impossible new regulations that do not reflect the reality in the Gulf of Maine with regard to the right whale," she said.

NOAA is barring traditional trap-pot gear from some areas off New England during periods when it says North Atlantic right whales are at risk of deadly entanglements with buoy lines. Lobstermen are also required to install weak links in their gear that whales can break through.

Collins complained that NOAA denied requests to delay the rules by two months, even though, she says, models of the risk posed by Maine's lobster fleet are flawed.

Her objection to what's usually a pro-forma unanimous consent vote leaves in limbo Jainey Kumar Bavishi's confirmation to be a NOAA Assistant Secretary.