John Stanley, who represents Southwest Harbor on the Lobster Zone B Management Council, listens intently during a council meeting last week at Mount Desert Island High School. ISLANDER PHOTO BY TAYLOR BIGLER

Council votes to change exit ratio

BAR HARBOR — The 59 hopeful lobstermen sitting on the Zone B waiting list for a commercial fishing license may soon have a shorter wait.

The Zone B Lobster Zone Management Council last week voted to change the exit ratio on the waiting list to allow the issuance of one commercial lobster license for every three licenses surrendered. Previously, the ratio had been 5-1.

Zone B includes the waters off Schoodic Point to Frenchman Bay to the Blue Hill Bay.

The council’s decision comes following a limited entry survey sent to all Zone B license holders.

The majority of respondents voted to maintain the current exit ratio, which is one license issued for every five licenses retired.

Fifty-nine percent of Zone B license holders who responded to the survey voted in favor of keeping the ratio at 5-1, and 41-percent voted to alter the ratio to 3-1.

Despite the survey results, the council voted unanimously to change the exit ratio to 3-1.

“This is not going to right all the wrongs,” council Chairman Dave Horner said at last Wednesday night’s council meeting. “For now this is a big step.”

Zone B adopted a limited entry system in 2009 following a year deplete of lobsters. The goal was to slow down the licensing process to rebuild the fishery.

Horner said the limited entry process was never intended to keep fishermen on the waiting list for decades. This is a start to fixing the backlog, he said.

The proposed ratio change will go through the Department of Marine Resources’ rulemaking process, which includes a public hearing, written comment period, approval by the DMR Advisory Council and final approval from Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

The vote came after an impassioned plea from two sternmen who have long been waitlisted for licenses.

Holly Masterson of Bar Harbor said at the current rate of surrendered licenses, she would be 64 when she received her commercial license. She is 28th on the list and has been on it since 2008.

“There are those of us who have put in our time,” she said. “We’ve got 8-year-olds fishing traps, and I can’t fish any of my own traps with my name on it.”

Students in the apprentice program can bypass the commercial license waiting list. Between 2012 and 2014, two commercial licenses were granted. Thirty-one students received commercial licenses when they upgraded their student licenses in the same time period.

“You are affecting so many lives here,” said Josh Kane of Bar Harbor, who has been waitlisted since 2010 and is currently 43rd.

He said sternmen like himself who have fished their whole lives have no say in how lobster policies in the zone are created because they don’t hold Zone B licenses.

“I am a non-entity in the career that I have devoted my entire adult life to,” said Kane.

A fisherman present at the meeting asked the council why the limited entry survey was sent if the council decided not to vote with the majority.

“When they decided to close Zone C, I said I was going to vote 3-1, so that’s why I am voting 3-1,” Horner said.

Keliher determined last week that Zone C, which includes the waters off of Stonington, Isle au Haut and Vinalhaven, can move forward with its own 1-1 limited-entry proposal.

Zone C was the last zone out of the state’s seven lobster zones to close its waters to newcomers.

DMR Resource Coordinator Sarah Cotnoir explained that other aspects of the recently enacted LD 1503, a bill aimed to improve the limited entry system, can also help trim down the Zone B waitlist.

The bill mandates that each zone’s waiting list is cleaned up every three years.

All fishermen on the waitlist will be contacted by certified letter and have 90 days to respond whether or not they want to remain on the list. If there is no response after 90 days, they will be taken off the waitlist.

Cotnoir said there will be a separate waiting list for those who wish to transfer their current licenses from one zone to another. Eleven of the 59 fishermen on the Zone B waiting list are transfers.

Cotnoir said the DMR is still working to come up with recommendations for the legislature on how to fairly maintain the separate transfer list and is seeking feedback from all zones.

Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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