Members of the ASMFC lobster management board at their meeting last week in Bar Harbor included, from right, Maj. Rene Cloutier of the Maine Marine Patrol, board Chair David Borden, Megan Ware of ASMFC and technical committee Chair Kathleen Reardon of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Lobster board tackles fishery issues

BAR HARBOR — No new policy affecting local lobstermen was handed down from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s lobster board from its meeting here last week, but the group discussed future options for trip reporting, crab bycatch and improving the lobster stock in southern New England.

The board relies on data from dealer and harvester reporting to make management decisions. “The technical committee highlighted data deficiencies in federal waters,” lobster fishery management plan (FMP) coordinator Megan Ware said.

Most state fishery departments conduct their own lobster surveys, such as Maine’s settlement survey, ventless trap survey and sea sampling program. But offshore waters are an increasingly important part of the fishery, and they’re outside the scope of those programs.

“States are collecting a variety of this information, but it’s not uniform,” Ware said.

The board’s lobster reporting working group presented short, medium and long-term goals to improve data collection. Current rules require 100 percent dealer reporting and at least 10 percent active harvester reporting.

The working group said that 10 percent includes recreational fishermen and recommended switching to only commercial harvesters. They would need 30 percent of active harvesters reporting to have statistically valid information. It also would be helpful to managers if they had data about trap hauls, soak time and gear configuration.

Long-term goals include using swipe cards, such as those used in Maine’s elver fishery, for harvester and dealer reports, and electronic vessel trip reports (VTRs) for all federal permit holders.

The lobster board also is in charge of Jonah crab management, as the fisheries are linked in many states. Many fishermen fish for both species with the same gear. They approved a draft addendum to the Jonah Crab FMP for public comment, aimed at standardizing rules for claw harvest and defining “bycatch” more clearly.

Some crab fishermen keep only crab claws and throw back the rest of the crab. Some members of the Maine delegation suggested it would be easier to enforce a volume limit on crab claws, like a five-gallon bucket, rather than a minimum claw size.

The draft addendum will be available on the ASMFC website by mid-November, Ware said, and many states also will hold public hearings.

The board reviewed a new addendum to the FMP for American lobster but decided to seek input from industry groups before approving it. The addendum lays out options for addressing stock decline in Southern New England. The goal is to increase egg production and reduce fishing mortality, Ware said. This would be achieved with a combination of increased minimum size for legal lobsters, decreased maximum size, trap reductions and closed seasons.

States are set to submit comments to the commission by Nov. 30, when a subset of the plan development team will review them.

The board will consider approving “Draft Addendum XXV” for public comment in February 2017.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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