The U.S. Senate has passed an amendment to ease federal inspections of sea urchins exported from Maine.

Urchins harvested in Maine and Canada are often processed in the state and sold to markets in Asia. Federal authorities inspect the urchins when they come into the state and then again before they are exported.

Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine sponsored the amendment to end the inspections prior to exportation, describing them as unnecessary. It passed unanimously in the early hours of Saturday morning.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has overstepped its bounds, and Maine’s urchin harvesters, processors, and shippers are unfairly paying the price,” King said in a statement. “With the passage of this amendment, we are another step closer to getting the feds off their backs so that they can once again thrive in their work.”

A similar bill introduced by Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September. The language of the two measures will need to be reconciled and passed again in both houses before the president could sign it into law.

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