A bill that would impose harsher penalties for lobstermen who violate fishing laws and would allow the Department of Marine Resources to track fishermen who have had their licenses suspended appears headed toward approval by the Maine Senate and House.

The bill, L.D. 575, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and by a 130-16 vote by the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The measure has to go back to the full Senate and House for a second and final procedural vote before it can be enacted.

It would then be presented to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.

An Act to Improve the Enforcement of Maine’s Lobster Laws would toughen penalties on lobstermen who violate fishing laws by committing illegal acts such as molesting traps, fishing over the trap limit, intentionally fishing sunken trawls (fishing with no buoy), as well as setting fire to or sinking another lobsterman’s boat.

The bill, which was supported by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, is part of an industry-supported effort to crack down on lawbreakers and to level the playing field for those fishermen who abide by fishing regulations.

Dave Cousins, who is president of the Lobstermen’s Association, said the bill would give the Department of Marine Resources the option of suspending lobstering licenses for no less than two years and up to six years.

“That’s a deterrent we needed to stop the cheating,” Cousins said. Those cheaters are fueling dangerous conflict and threatening the stewardship ethos within the state’s most valuable fishery, fishermen told the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee at a hearing in April.

A controversial provision of the bill would give Patrick Keliher, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the authority to install a tracking device on the vessel of a fisherman whose lobster or crab fishing license was being reinstated after a suspension.

Cousins said the state would need to get a judge’s authorization before the tracking device could be attached to a vessel.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.