BAR HARBOR — Those who have chosen the fisherman’s life do not work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., clock in and out at lunchtime or comply with company dress codes. Rather, they have chosen the ocean as their workplace and a captain’s seat as their office chair.
However, keeping up with ever-changing state and federal guidelines does require some paperwork.
An existing – but perhaps formerly unenforced – rule requires those who fish outside of the line that separates Maine waters from international waters to hold a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ship station license.
The little-known rule has come to light recently due to the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ (DMR) push to streamline the state’s boundary line.
Kyle Staples of Trenton, a merchant marine and graduate of Mount Desert Island High School, is offering his services to cut through red tape for area lobstermen to comply with the FCC guidelines.
“There’s quite a bit of confusion about where the line is,” Staples said. “They are thinking that it is the three-mile line, and it’s not right now, so they are wondering if it applies to them or not.”
In many areas along the Atlantic seaboard, the boundary line is simply three miles out from the high tide line. Fishermen here must have a federal fishing license in addition to their state license should they want to fish beyond the boundary line.
Making matters more complicated for fishermen here is the fact that part of Lobster Management Zone B (Newbury Neck to Schoodic Point) falls outside of the three-mile line, meaning those fishing that area with no intention of going outside state waters are inadvertently doing so.
“The boundary line I am concerned with is the line from the Frenchman Bay light to Mount Desert Rock and southwest to Matinicus light,” said Staples.
Some fishermen may not know that they need the FCC license, he said, due to the confusing boundary lines along Zone B.
“They won’t know they are [noncompliant] until they get boarded by the Coast Guard,” Staples said.
Every two years, fishing vessels go through a Coast Guard safety check, and a posted ship station license is one of the requirements. The permit stays with the vessel, not with the individual.
Vessels required to have the ship station license include cargo ships that weigh over 300 gross tons navigating in the open sea; ships certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry more than six passengers for hire in the open sea; power driven ships over 20 meters in length on navigable waterways; ships of more than 100 gross tons certified by the Coast Guard to carry at least one passenger; tow boats of more than 7.8 meters in length; and uninspected commercial fishing industry vessels required to carry a VHF radio.
The ship station license costs $220 and is good for 10 years.
For those who would rather not go through the trouble of obtaining and filling out the necessary paperwork, there are companies and individuals who can help.
Some marine consulting companies, Staples said, charge double the license fee or even more for helping to fill out the correct paperwork.
Staples charges $150 for help with the ship station license.
“It’s not the worst application in the world, but there are all different codes in there for different vessels and different types of [fishing] licenses,” he said. “It’s time-consuming enough to where someone might want to pay someone else to do it.”
For information on the FCC’s ship station license application, visit www.fcc.gov/wireless/ship-radio-station-licensing. Staples can be reached at 460-9270.