Dog days of August spawn slate of DMR regulations

AUGUSTA — In the middle of August, with Maine’s lobstermen busy landing shedders and Maine’s lobster exporters worried about a trade war with China, the Department of Marine Resources last week published a fistful of new regulations.

They cover topics ranging from the minimum size at which wild oysters may be harvested to tightening restrictions on the state’s halibut fishermen to setting the dates for the upcoming 2018-2019 urchin fishing season.

Last week alone, the department published notices of adoption for eight separate regulations. Earlier in the month, DMR had already announced a regulation limiting the number of lobster traps allowed on a single trawl in an area around Mount Desert Rock.

While the flurry of rulemaking might seem calculated to come at a time when most people in the fishing industry are too busy to notice, the timing is largely coincidental.

All of the new regulations were subject to comment at public hearings and several of the regulations were crafted after extensive input from fishermen and various advisory bodies.

The regulation setting the urchin season was adopted after extensive discussions at the Sea Urchin Zone Council and a series of public hearings in Augusta, Machias and Ellsworth.

Discussion around the regulation limiting trawls was contentious enough that DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher issued a lengthy statement explaining his reasoning for adopting the restrictions.

While many of the regulations are wide in scope, some are highly technical and narrowly tailored to address a specific problem.

One new rule sets minimum and maximum weights for lobster tails in the shell that may be legally sold in Maine. Before the new regulation, the only measurement provided was the length of tail meat already removed from the shell. Setting limits on the weight for tails in the shell should ensure that wholesalers and retail establishments such as restaurants and fish markets only buy and sell tails that are from lobsters that are of legal size in Maine.

Unlike some of the other regulations, no one attended a public hearing on the weight limits and the proposed regulation did not draw a single comment from the public.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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