In a win for Maine’s sea urchin and sea cucumber harvesting industry and businesses, Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin had their bipartisan amendment, the Poliquin Amendment, included into one of the major spending bills being considered by the House.
The amendment, which is similar to the representatives’ bipartisan bill introduced earlier this year, will make it easier for Maine seafood dealers to export sea urchins and sea cucumbers outside of the United States. This amendment puts an end to repetitive, mandatory inspections of urchins and sea cucumbers being exported from the country, which are causing the highly perishable product to be held in warehouses for prolonged periods and spoiling.
Since the 1980s, certain shellfish, such as shrimp, lobster, urchins and cucumbers, have been exempt from certain inspections. In 2011, Federal officials started requiring inspections of sea urchins and sea cucumbers entering and leaving the United States. Federal officials claimed that technically urchins are echinoderms instead of shellfish.
“This amendment is a huge victory for hundreds of hardworking Mainers who dive for, harvest and process urchins and cucumbers. We must continue to ensure the federal government is there to help—not hurt—our jobs, local businesses and communities in Maine,” said Representatives Poliquin and Pingree of their legislation. “It is time to revise burdensome regulations in order to support the more than 650 Maine jobs in our State’s urchin and cucumber industry.”
The representatives have long fought for the easing of these duplicative regulatory burdens. Earlier this year, the two reintroduced their bipartisan bill to remove the regulations. Last Congress, the Maine representatives’ bill passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan support. The two also testified before the House Natural Resources Committee during a hearing held at the request of Poliquin.
This year, Representative Poliquin also sent a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asking him to review and consider removing certain trade restrictions administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services that force the repetitive, mandatory inspections.