Forrest Moody, right, a 36-year-old lobsterman from Harpswell Neck, holds a sign with two dolls meant to represent his niece and nephew during a rally outside DiMillo’s on the Water on Commercial Street in Portland on Wednesday. The rally was attended by numerous politicians, including former Gov. Paul LePage, third from left, Bruce Poliquin, fourth from left, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, center with arms crossed. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

More than 350 lobstermen, their families and supporters rallied on the Portland waterfront Wednesday afternoon, calling for the state to sue federal regulators and stop proposed rules the fishermen say will decimate their industry.

One politician who attended the event, Republican U.S. House candidate Ed Thelander, went so far as to say working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is like negotiating with a rapist.

Those who went to DiMillo’s on the Water restaurant were encouraged to visit a website,, to send a message to Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, urging him to launch a lawsuit that would challenge the requirements. The mandates, intended to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, would include restrictions on where lobstermen can place their traps and the need to use new equipment that breaks away if a whale is entangled in the gear.

The industry and the state’s politicians already have fought back, and their efforts to defend Maine lobstering have increased in recent weeks. As part of the pushback, the state’s lawyers are currently assisting lobstering groups in lawsuits over the regulations.

The Maine Lobstering Union and the organizer of the rally, conservative radio talk show host Ray Richardson, said Maine could launch its own lawsuit and be successful. Richardson cited a recent West Virginia case against the Environmental Protection Agency in which the Supreme Court sided with West Virginia, ruling that Congress hadn’t given the EPA authority to set emission caps for power plants.

Richardson said a lawsuit by Maine could make the same argument against regulators with NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, who are working on changes in lobstering regulations.


But Frey’s office said it already is making the legal arguments in a separate lawsuit advocating for the lobstering groups, who are involved in a pair of ongoing legal actions.

“Filing a third lawsuit, with the same arguments on the same issues, would be legally insignificant,” Frey said through a spokeswoman.

Richardson said the Maine Legislature already has allocated money to potentially sue the federal government and that lobstermen need to push Frey to act.

“We need to follow the road map” of West Virginia, he said. “We need the will to fight NOAA.”

Maine and lobster are inextricably linked in the public’s mind, Richardson said, and the loss of the fishery would harm more people than just those directly involved in the industry.

“If we don’t have Maine lobster, we’re just another pretty coastal state,” he said.


Though Richardson said the rally was in support of the industry, not a political gathering, he allowed candidates in the crowd, including Thelander, to make short speeches at the close of the event.

“NOAA wants to rape you and your family, and they’re saying, ‘Pick a child.’ Don’t go there,” Thelander told the crowd. “I have negotiated a lot in my life. You have to prove yourself honorable to do so and they are not. You don’t negotiate with a rapist and that’s what’s happening.”

Thelander is running for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Others who spoke in support of the industry included former two-term Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Janet Mills; former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is running to regain the 2nd District seat; and Rep. Jared Golden, the Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District.

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