Environmental groups that have led litigation targeting the lobster fishing industry have been heavily funded by various liberal dark money groups that don’t disclose their individual donors, a Fox News Digital review of tax filings found. 

The organizations — the Center For Biological Diversity, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Defenders Of Wildlife — first filed a joint federal lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2018, arguing a rule issued by the agency years earlier failed to properly protect the endangered North Atlantic right whales from lobster fishing equipment. In April 2020, a federal judge ruled in favor of the groups, ordering the NMFS to issue tighter restrictions.

„Right whales have been getting tangled up and killed in lobster gear for far too long,“ Kristen Monsell, the oceans program litigation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said at the time. „This decision sends a clear signal that federal officials must protect these desperately endangered animals from more painful and deadly entanglements before it’s too late.“

As a result of the decision, the Biden administration moved forward with new regulations on lobster fishing equipment in May 2021. The coalition of environmental groups then filed another lawsuit challenging the new rule and, in July 2022, again received a favorable judgment from a federal court. CLF senior attorney Arica Fuller applauded the ruling, saying it made clear that „fishery managers must do more to protect“ right whales.

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However, as a result of the litigation and tighter rules, Maine lawmakers and business leaders have argued that thousands of lobster fishing jobs are at risk. The updated NMFS restrictions stated that fixed gear fisheries like the Maine lobster fishery must reduce their risk to whales by a staggering 98%. The first restrictions were rolled out in May and more restrictions are planned for December 2024 and 2030.

„Friendship, Maine, is the name of the town that I grew up in and that I live in now and where all the previous generations in my family fished and operated from,“ Dustin Delano, a fourth-generation lobsterman, told FOX Business in December. „Basically, the lobster industry is the backbone — that’s what everything was built around and that’s pretty much the only option we have here. Without it, I don’t think there would be much left.“

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Overall, Maine’s lobster industry — which by state law is made up entirely of small business operators — provides the U.S. with about 90% of the nation’s lobster supply, making the industry a top economic driver in the state, and boosting other related industries as well. In 2021, Maine’s lobster fishery generated $724.9 million of revenue, the largest amount in state history.

The three groups that have led litigation pushing for greater restrictions on the industry have a long history accepting funding from left-wing groups with unknown wealthy donors, according to a Fox News Digital review of tax filings.

For example, the Center For Biological Diversity has received millions of dollars from left-wing dark money groups including the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Patagonia Fund and Pew Charitable Trusts. The center has been the recipient of grants worth nearly $8 million from the Sandler Foundation, $1 million from the Wilburforce Foundation, $850,000 from Environment Now and another $815,000 from the Frankel Family Foundation, according to Influence Watch.

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One of the Center for Biological Diversity’s earliest benefactors was the Wyss Foundation, an organization founded by liberal Swiss billionaire donor Hansjorg Wyss. The foundation has wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to the group and Wyss has pledged $10 million to it, The New York Times reported.

Over the last decade alone, the group’s annual revenue, which is mainy comprised of grants and contributions, has surged more than 300% to $27.3 million.

The CLF, meanwhile, has been awarded grants from the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Walton Family Foundation and dozens of other foundations. The Boston-based group has also accepted money from businesses and other organizations including Facebook, the Schwab Charitable Fund and the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation.

In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gave the CLF $4.3 million.

And the Defenders Of Wildlife has received funding from the Wyss Foundation and George Soros‘ Open Society Foundation. In 2018, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation gave the group a $4 Million grant.

In addition, Defenders of Wildlife received $1.3 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation which earmarked the grants for projects protected endangered species and pushing a moratorium on offshore fossil fuel drilling. 

The Center for Biological Diversity, CLF and Defenders of Wildlife didn’t respond to requests for comment.