BAR HARBOR — Lobster fishermen throughout the coast of Maine have until September this year to adhere to the state’s new trap gear marking requirements.
Using the colors purple and green to distinguish Maine fishing gear from other states’ fishing gear is a response to federal regulators asking the state’s officials and industry to come up with solutions to better protect endangered whales, before they do.
Representatives from the state’s Department of Marine Resources handed out a graphic showing the new gear marking requirements at the Zone B Lobster Council meeting on Jan. 18.
Nearly 50 fishermen attended, including those on the council, within the zone that goes from Swan’s Island to Schoodic Point. An overview of the state’s DMR Right Whale Proposal that was submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was shared with the group. Components of the proposal included vertical line reduction, 1,700-pound weak points, gear marking, harvester reporting, electronic tracking on federal vessels and conservation equivalency and individual safety program.
Up until the most recent gear marking changes were introduced, Maine fishermen were marking their gear with red, in the sliver area — between the exemption line and three nautical mile line) and in federal waters.
Now, those fishing inside the exemption line will be required to have three purple marks on their buoy line. A 36-inch purple mark is required within the top two fathoms (12 feet of rope). A 12-inch purple mark is required mid-way down the line and another 12-inch purple mark is required at the bottom of the buoy line.
No green marks are allowed inside the exemption line, but they are required on buoy lines for all territories beyond the exemption line.
Those fishing in the sliver area and federal waters are required to have a 36-inch purple mark, a six-inch green mark and a 12-inch purple mark all within the top two fathoms — 12 feet of line. Twelve-inch purple marks are required half-way down the line and at the bottom, as they are on buoy lines within the exemption line.
One fisherman asked at the meeting if they could fish with a fully purple rope. Officials from DMR said there could be fishermen in other states using purple rope, as well, so the markers would be used to distinguish from which state a line originates. According to the guidance offered on the gear marking regulations, purple rope must be marked with a purple gear mark.
A few distinctions for the marks include the 36-inch purple mark and the six-inch green mark must be on the line of a buoy that is always on the surface. All end lines must be marked. There is no set order in which the top two purple marks – 36 and 12 inches long – and the six-inch green mark go, as long as they are within the top two fathoms of the line.
Purple rope can be used as the mark on a line of a different color by adding it onto that line in the appropriate areas. But an end line made entirely of purple rope does not count as a gear mark.
“I see that all as a nuisance, but not as a major problem,” said David Horner, chair of the Zone B Council, in an interview with the Islander. “If you use purple rope, you still have to put a purple mark on it.”