Lobstermen on Swans Island have voted to establish an island limited entry license program. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Swans Island eyes limited entry system

SWANS ISLAND — Lobstermen here voted last week to move forward with an island limited entry program that may help island residents get lobster licenses faster.

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. Six Swans Island residents are currently on the Zone B waiting list. Some of them have been on the list for 10 years.

Department of Marine Resources (DMR) staff, including Commissioner Patrick Keliher, resource coordinator Sarah Cotnoir and lead lobster scientist Kathleen Reardon, were on hand for the annual meeting of the Swans Island Lobster Conservation Area.

“We only get there once a year, so we try to bring them the highlights of what’s presented at the zone council meetings” on the mainland, Cotnoir said this week. More than 30 people attended the meeting.

Under the island limited entry program in DMR rules, commercial lobster license holders in an island community may vote by written referendum to establish the program. Once adopted, a fisherman who lives on the island or moves there full time may be granted a new lobster license sooner than others on the Zone B waiting list.

A total of 56 percent of the Swans Island lobstermen who returned their referendum ballots were in favor of establishing the program, a 67 percent response rate, Cotnoir told the group. Respondents favored the proposal by a vote of 28-22.

“The islands with no land bridge need to keep jobs here,” one fisherman wrote on his ballot. “The only job is fishing. I want my license and permit to stay on the island.”

Some who voted against the proposal said the baseline number of 72 lobster licenses for the island is too high. “We do not want more fishermen,” one wrote.

That 72 was the number of lobster licenses from Swans Island at the time they started the referendum process, Cotnoir said. “Halfway through 2016, I have 67 people who have bought their license for this year.”

At the meeting, Island Limited Entry Interim Committee members Eric Staples, Kenny Lemoine, Lester Stanley and Howard Dentremont voted 4-0 to advance the proposal to the DMR rulemaking process. Committee member Chris Sawyer was absent.

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.

The Cranberry Isles and Frenchboro have the other island limited entry programs in Zone B. Chebeague, Cliff and Monhegan islands in other areas of the Maine coast also have active programs.

“One of the things we have to do is send a notice out to everybody on the Zone B waiting list,” Cotnoir said. “Anybody that would like to be placed on their new island waiting list needs to submit an island waiting list declaration form. Then they’ll be put on the new waiting list according to the order in which those forms are received,” regardless of their relative standing on the longer Zone B list.

The next steps in the rulemaking process, she said, are a public hearing, collecting written comment on the proposed rule and bringing the plan to the DMR Advisory Council.

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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