Pingree, Poliquin win major protection for Maine urchin dealers
A bill introduced by Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin to ease federal inspection of several species of seafood, including urchins exported from Maine, passed the U.S. House today.
"Urchin dealers in Maine should be exempted from these inspections just like lobster and other shellfish are," Pingree said. "This is a highly perishable product and the shipments keep getting held up waiting for someone from the federal government to sign off on them. This is a common sense reform that removes an unnecessary regulatory burden and protects Maine jobs in the urchin industry."
“This is a big win for Maine jobs,” said Poliquin. “Our state’s sea urchin and sea cucumber industry employs more than 650 hardworking Mainers and is a critical component of our coastal economy. These men and women take on an extremely dangerous job in diving for their catches in treacherous conditions. There is no reason for bureaucrats in Washington to get in the way of their livelihoods by imposing unnecessary and harmful rules that directly threaten their businesses.”
Pingree was contacted by Maine urchin dealers in late 2014, and Poliquin in early 2015 after he took office, after federal officials started requiring the inspection of urchins entering and leaving the United States. Currently, processors buy urchins harvested in Maine and Canada and process them in Maine. Urchins from Canada are inspected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when coming into the state. After they are processed, all urchins—regardless of where they were caught—are again inspected before being exported. Almost all processed urchins are sold to markets in Asia.
Just last week Pingree had to intervene when two shipments of urchins from Maine, worth an estimated $50,000, got delayed at JFK airport in New York while inspectors were off duty over the long Labor Day weekend. Because of Pingree's efforts, the shipments were cleared by officials and allowed to be transported out of the country.
Pingree and Poliquin’s bill would put an end to repetitive, mandatory inspections of urchins and sea cucumbers being exported from the country. The House Natural Resources Committee amended the bill to also exempt squid, octopus, and cuttlefish from these inspections.
In June, Poliquin sent a letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging that this bill be brought to the House floor for a vote. The House Natural Resources Committee also held a hearing on the legislation at Congressman Poliquin’s request earlier this spring.
Pingree and Poliquin were also successful in getting language into a spending bill for the Department of the Interior but because the appropriations process in Congress is not moving forward, passage of their stand-alone bill today makes it much more likely that the provision will become law this year.
Pingree and Poliquin's bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.