Concerns of MDI lobstermen reflected in new whale rules

GLOUCESTER, Mass — The interests and opinions of Mount Desert Island lobstermen were represented in the team that negotiated and wrote the new rules for fishing gear intended to protect whales announced last week. Important exemptions include waters around Mount Desert Rock where it will be legal to fish pairs of traps even after the rule takes effect.

“We went back and forth about how the rule will impact Mount Desert Rock,” said Maine Lobsterman’s Association Executive Director Patrice McCarron, who represented the Maine lobster industry to the Take Reduction Team (TRT). “Those are state waters outside the exemption line, so they can fish pairs there. There’s a little confusion because of the distance from shore, but it would be extremely difficult to fish longer lines there. We did a lot of work to make sure they won’t have to.”

The Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team was created by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and formed in 1995. The team gathered input from public hearings and a 60-day comment period during the rulemaking process. The final rule was released last Friday and takes effect June 2015.

Terry Stockwell, external affairs director for the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) holds a seat on the TRT. DMR Whale Take Reduction Specialist Erin Summers also attended meetings to provide input.

Fishermen Dwight Carver, Stevie Robbins, and Jimmy Tripp formed the rest of the delegation.

The new rules governing vertical lines come in addition to existing regulations about sinking line.

Seventy percent of the area of Maine’s inshore state waters inside what’s known as Maine’s exemption line is exempt from both the sinking line rule and the new rules. “The vertical line rules, and we fought hard for this, do not apply inside of the exemption line,” McCarron said.

Another place the new rules took into account fishermen’s input was in the drawing of the “6-mile” line. “The further offshore you go,” McCarron said,” the greater the risk of seeing a whale, so the minimum number of traps on a string increases. But the fishermen said there’s still rocky bottom at six miles out in many places. So the 6-mile line is not six miles from shore, but instead it’s placed at the point where the bottom transitions, the point where you can start safely adding traps on a line.”

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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.