ELLSWORTH — The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) schedules dozens, if not hundreds, of aquaculture scoping sessions, public hearings and informational meetings covering a variety of issues around the state each year, but few of them are important as three community meetings DMR has scheduled for next month.
Maine’s $485 million lobster industry is facing serious restrictions on the way it operates as a consequence of efforts to protect endangered right whales from extinction.
In April, DMR will hold a series of community meetings to talk with lobster industry members about upcoming actions by the NOAA Fisheries Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission dealing with whale protection issues.
The meetings will be informational in nature and will offer lobstermen an opportunity to give DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher their feedback on the whale issues and the proposed actions.
Meetings are scheduled for South Portland High School on Monday, April 8, Oceanside High School on Tuesday, April 9, and Ellsworth High School on Wednesday, April 10. All of the meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m.
The whale issue couldn’t be more serious.
Speaking at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum at the beginning of March, Keliher said that, at the regulatory bodies, “at the top of the list for discussion” is 100 percent electronic tracking of vessels lobster fishing in federal waters beyond the three-mile limit.
But, he made clear, that is only one item on a long list of changes that could affect the lobster industry.