A federal judge signed an order this week removing a ban that kept the Maine Lobstermen’s Association from discussing management of the lobster fishery.

District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby signed the order July 21, which terminates a consent decree entered into by the lobstermen’s group in 1958 with the U.S. Department of Justice that limited the scope of the association because of concerns about antitrust laws.

The association sought the reversal so it could reorganize as a nonprofit trade group, rather than the cooperative it has been for 56 years.

“(The ruling) is a breath of fresh air for the MLA,” Patrice McCarron, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

The association that represents 1,200 commercial lobstermen filed the request June 25 in U.S. District Court in Portland. The request was made because the 1956 decree “may be impeding the MLA’s legitimate, lawful advocacy and educational efforts related to fisheries management regulations,” said Mary Anne Mason, the group’s attorney.

With the order rescinded, the group is expected to have the latitude to participate in the formation of a Maine fishery management plan and discuss supply issues that could help the industry prosper, McCarron said

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