The Legislature recently took a step to protect one of Maine’s most valuable industries. L.D. 1549, “An Act To Provide an Exemption for Incidentally Caught Lobsters,” died in the House of Representatives on June 11. This bill would have removed the penalty for groundfishermen who land offshore lobster bycatch from drag fishing. This bill didn’t pass for a very good reason: Maine can’t afford to lose its lobster population or the 7,000 jobs that are supported by the industry.

Currently, federal law allows 500 incidentally caught lobsters to be landed by groundfishermen. While Massachusetts and New Hampshire follow this rule, Maine has prohibited groundfishermen to land offshore lobster bycatch.

Our lobster industry is thriving because of this and other conservation methods.

About a century ago, Maine’s lobster industry faced the same problems that this bill would have caused. In the 1910s, lobster landings dropped as much as those of sea urchins and codfish have today. It was not until the 1930s that current laws were put in place. It took another two decades to reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, many species fished by groundfishermen are diminishing. However, allowing them to land lobster bycatch causes more problems. We can help groundfishermen by supporting the $3.5 million bond for groundfish quota, we can invest in processing and freezing technology to be more globally competitive and we can work with the federal government to bring other states in line with our sustainable fishing practices.

The lobster industry is vital to of our state. I am thankful that the Legislature chose to protect it.

Rep. Mick Devin


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