BAR HARBOR — Frenchboro residents hoping to increase the year-round population of their island by establishing a special lobster license program brought their ideas to the Zone B lobster management council meeting at Mount Desert Island High School on Sept. 17.
Kim Smith said that the Island Limited Entry program offers a useful tool to encourage families to settle on Frenchboro. Several families have left in the last few years. “We only have a couple of kids in the school,” she said, “and many people serve in several positions to help run the town.”
Under the program in Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) rules, commercial lobster license holders in an island community may vote by written referendum to establish the program. Once adopted, a fisherman who moves to the island to live full time may be granted a new lobster license sooner than others on the Zone B waiting list. Several safeguards in the regulation help ensure the license holder actually lives on the island. He or she must maintain residence there for eight years before the license becomes transferable. Since Zone B is closed, new licenses are issued only when an existing one is surrendered. The long waiting list may make the island program an attractive option to sternmen itching to get their own licenses and start working for themselves.
The Cranberry Isles has the only existing program in Zone B, which includes the eastern half of Blue Hill Bay and waters around MDI east to Schoodic Point. Chebeague, Cliff and Monhegan Islands have active Island Limited Entry programs in other zones.
A new resident would go on a separate waiting list only for Frenchboro. “The island has a baseline number of licenses,” Sarah Cotnoir, lobster resource coordinator for DMR, said Monday. “If they ever go below that number, then when we do the annual calculation, if there’s anyone on the waiting list,” they would get the available license.
The fishermen on Frenchboro don’t need the zone council’s approval to move forward, Cotnoir said, but it’s helpful for the group to provide feedback to the DMR.
State Rep. Walter Kumiega represents Frenchboro. “I think it’s really a great idea,” he said. “They did some affordable housing work there a few years ago, and some of the nice, modest family homes that were built to attract people to the island are empty.”
Richard Howland sits on the Island Limited Entry Program Committee for the Cranberry Isles. “It’s a good program,” he said. “Especially for Frenchboro – it should help guarantee that you’ll sustain at least the number of fishermen you have now.”