BAR HARBOR — The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission could consider final approval of an electronic tracking requirement for lobstermen in federal waters as early as spring 2022, officials said last week.
The commission’s American Lobster Management Board went over a potential timeline for the action at its fall meeting and staff said that a draft of the requirement could be ready for public comment by December.
The board initiated the idea to collect spatial and effort data from lobster and Jonah crab fishermen.
The potential data could help address challenges with stock assessments, interactions with protected species and offshore enforcement. It could also be crucial to help record exactly how much space the U.S. lobster fishery covers, as officials look at the expanded use of aquaculture, protected marine areas and offshore wind energy.
The board heard some specific recommendations from their plan development team, which has been working on the initiative. The team suggested cellular-based devices over satellite due to cellular’s lower cost and accessibility. The team wanted to see the tech be able to report location data at one ping per minute, though rates could vary if a vessel was moored.
The requirement should include a process for approval of devices that could be used for the fishery.
States would be responsible for verifying that harvesters have devices installed on their vessels. A vessel would be tied to the state of its homeport.
The offshore lobstermen currently aren’t required to have electronic monitoring. Attendees at the meeting wondered if this requirement should just apply to any fishing boat with a federal permit, such as a gillnet or trawler.
Steve Train, a lobsterman out of Long Island, Maine, worried that if there were issues with the technology, lobstermen may be forced to stay home instead of going out fishing. He said he’d like to see a sort of a soft opening on the technology.
The development team took the ideas and said it would be working on the draft over the next few months.