AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee (MRC) will hear several bills next week that could affect the lobster and crab industries statewide.
On Monday, March 6, the MRC will hear two bills sponsored by State Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor) that propose changes to limited-entry lobster and crab zones.
LD 149 is a “concept bill” that lays out several strategies for regulating limited-entry zones.
Hubbell proposed the bills on behalf of the Zone B fishermen he represents, many of whom are at odds with fishermen in neighboring Zone C to the west.
Tensions between lobster license holders from both lobster management zones who fish along the line between Zones B and C have been simmering for a decade and came to a boil last summer when a trap-cutting war resulted in gear losses estimated at more than $350,000.
According to fishermen from Zone B, those tensions stem from the fact that Zone C was until recently an open zone in which any lobsterman could get a license. Since the state allows up to 49 percent of a fisherman’s gear to be set in a second zone, that left Zone B with crowded fishing grounds near its border with Zone C.
In Hubbell’s concept bill, the first solution would be to repeal “double tagging” altogether except for those grandfathered in. Current second tag holders still would be permitted to fish outside of their declared zone, but after the effective date of the law, no new second tags would be permitted.
Should that provision pass, the bill then suggests that licensees who fish in a second zone be subjected to “the most restrictive management measures of both zones.”
Another option would be to continue second zone tagging but drop the second zone limit to 25 percent rather than 49 percent.
Hubbell also proposed LD 616, which singles out the second zone tagging repeal from LD 149.
Last month, the representative explained that with two bills, members of the MRC would be able to determine whether to move forward with Hubbell’s laundry list of suggestions in LD 149 or with only the provision to end second zone tagging in LD 616.
A concept bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) proposes several measures to improve enforcement of the state’s lobster conservation laws.
It would establish license suspension as the minimum punishment for violations such as scrubbing lobsters (removing eggs from female lobsters), fishing over the trap limit, fishing sunken trawls (unmarked by a surface buoy) or untagged gear and molesting lobster traps.
Keeping oversized, v-notch or egg-bearing lobsters would draw a minimum fine and a high fine for repeat offenders. The bill also would allow the Department of Marine Resources commissioner to revoke the license of anyone found guilty of sinking, burning or destroying another fisherman’s vessel. A party found to have committed any of those offenses would be required to repay the state for the cost of the investigation.
Another provision of Langley’s bill would require that any lobsterman whose license was revoked would have to re-enter the fishery with no more than 300 traps and then add 100 per year after that until reaching the zone limit. The violator also would be required to have a vessel monitoring system on board.
Rep. Kevin Battle’s (I-South Portland) bill, LD 438, also will be heard next Monday. It proposes an amendment to the language of an existing bill that requires a harbormaster training course. LD 438 would require harbormasters to complete a course offered “by the Maine Harbormaster’s Association or its successor organization.” The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle).
The MRC hearing will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 6, in Room 206 of the Cross Building at the Maine State House in Augusta.