SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A proposed cut to the town’s lobster buyer truck fee was rejected by selectmen here Tuesday, but an increase in mooring fees was accepted.
The Harbor Committee had recommended decreasing the fee for lobster buyers using the Manset Town Dock to $2,300, but the Board of Selectmen voted to keep it at $5,000.
The committee’s recommendation was to reverse a 2016 increase, when the town hiked the fee from $2,300 to $5,000.
Selectman Lydia Goetze said that, based on what she understood from members of the Harbor Committee, fishermen felt they got less per pound for their lobsters as a result of the 2016 change.
Based on discussions between selectmen and fishermen who attended the board meeting this week, at $5,000, fishermen are losing about a quarter of a cent per pound.
“I don’t think that there’s a guarantee that if their fee was reduced, that the money would go back to the lobstermen,” Goetze said.
“I can tell you, if you lower it now, we’re not going to get that [money] back, the damage has been done,” Corey Pettegrow said.
Some fishermen raised questions as to why the lobster buyer truck fee was the only one to be increased two years ago.
According to one of the fishermen at the meeting, “we just assumed that everyone else’s fee was going up too.”
Goetze was also concerned that the town was using a public wharf “to subsidize private enterprise, when we have competing businesses in town.”
Only a few towns in Maine allow lobster buyers to purchase catch directly off a public dock, fishermen said.
The Harbor Committee also recommended increasing mooring fees by $6, which the Board of Selectmen approved. Residents now have to pay $76 and nonresidents $146.
Harbormaster Adam Thurston said at Tuesday’s meeting that the committee is planning to switch to an online mooring registration program. Payments made through this system will include a small additional charge for the online transaction, he said.