Legislature gives initial approval for harsher lobster scrubbing penalty

AUGUSTA — The Maine House and Senate each have given initial approval to a measure that increases the penalty for endangering Maine’s lobster population by removing the eggs of a female lobster.

Under this practice, known as lobster scrubbing, an individual dips an egg-bearing lobster in a bleach solution or uses a brush to clean the eggs off the lobster’s tail. By law, an egg-bearing lobster should have its tail marked and be “immediately liberated.” This protects the female lobster for 2-3 years, until the mark grows out, giving it a chance to reproduce several times and generate tens of thousands of offspring.

“Lobster scrubbing is a deliberate, willful act that shows blatant disregard for the future of the fishery. Any individual willing to sacrifice thousands of eggs to harvest a single lobster is abusing the privilege to harvest Maine’s most valuable marine resource,” said Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle), a co-sponsor of the bill and House chair of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee. “The vast majority of lobstermen are law-abiding, conservation-minded stewards of the fishery. It’s understood that Maine’s laws protect the resource and the future of their industry.”

The bill, LD 1233, increases the penalty for removing the eggs from a lobster in order to sell it from a two-year suspension to an outright license revocation.

“Maine’s lobster fishery is one of the healthiest fisheries in the world,” said Rep. Mick Devin (D-Newcastle), a member of the Marine Resources committee. “The primary reason is that Maine’s lobstermen work hard to protect their brood stock and take measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of their fishery. Marking egg-bearing females is a major contributor to the overall health of the lobster stock.”

In 2014, Maine lobster harvesters landed over 120 million pounds. The fishery increased in value over 2013 to a record high $456,935,346.

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