AUGUSTA — The Department of Marine Resources is taking emergency rulemaking action to implement a clarification that it is illegal to possess Atlantic halibut when operating seaward of Maine’s territorial waters.
In January, the New England Fishery Management Council passed a motion to ask the United States Coast Guard and states operating under a joint enforcement agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that enforcement of the three-mile line be a high priority during the Atlantic halibut season in Maine.
The motion was passed based on concerns that state license holders are targeting Atlantic halibut outside of Maine waters, resulting in increased catch rates. According to state landing reports, the state waters fishery from 2010-2014 historically has caught an average of 65 percent of the sub-annual catch limit and in 2015-2016, caught 101 percent, and it’s anticipated that the 2016 landing will be even higher.
This rule clarifies that fishermen targeting halibut with state commercial tags may not possess Atlantic halibut outside of Maine’s territorial waters. This action is intended to conserve the halibut resource from unusual damage and imminent depletion.