Lobster boats on their moorings on Frenchboro. A program aimed at giving families who move to the island full-time priority for new lobster licenses cleared hurdles this month. FILE PHOTO

Lobster license priorities aired

FRENCHBORO — Speaking in favor of a new lobster license program intended to increase the year-round population of their island, several Frenchboro lobstermen made the trek to Ellsworth City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 11, for a public hearing on the plan.

“Everybody who came was from the island,” Department of Marine Resources (DMR) lobster coordinator Sarah Cotnoir said. No one spoke against the proposal at the meeting.

The public comment period for the proposed rule, adding Frenchboro to the four existing islands participating in the island limited entry program, ended Monday. The next step is discussion at the DMR advisory council, which is slated to meet March 3 at 1 p.m. in Hallowell.

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 provision. The proposed rule allows “up to 14 commercial island resident lobster licenses to be issued annually” for the Frenchboro Island limited entry program. However, each year after the program is established, it will be up to the DMR Commissioner to determine the number of new island resident licenses that may be authorized in that year.

Because Zone B is limited entry or “closed,” new licenses are issued only when an existing one is surrendered. A separate waiting list is established only for the island. Several categories of fishermen and aspiring fishermen may be affected by the rule: those on the larger Zone B waiting list expressing willingness to move to Frenchboro and those who already live on the island and hold a lobster and crab license in a zone other than the one in which the island is located.

Several safeguards in the regulations help ensure that the license holder actually lives on the island. He or she must maintain residence there for eight years before the license becomes transferable. 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.

“We only have a couple of kids in the school,” Frenchboro resident Kim Smith told the Zone B lobster management council meeting last September, “and many people serve in several positions to help run the town.” Several families have left in the last few years.

The Cranberry Isles has the only existing program in Zone B, which includes the eastern half of Blue Hill Bay and waters around Mount Desert Island east to Schoodic Point. Chebeague, Cliff and Monhegan Islands have active island limited entry programs in other zones.

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.

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