News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 4, 2012
Candidates, MLA discuss priorities for lobster industry

by Jessica Brophy

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association held a candidate’s forum for coastal candidates to state legislature.

In attendance was David White, Democratic challenger to Brian Langley, the Republican incumbent who currently holds the Maine Senate seat for District 28 (which includes Deer Isle and Stonington).

Also in attendance were the sons of Republican candidate for Maine House seat for District 37 Sherm Hutchins, one of whom is a fisherman. (District 37 includes Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Surry.)

MLA Executive Director Patrice McCarron shared a slideshow outlining fisheries-related issues and ideas likely to come before the candidates if they are elected.

These could include different measures to increase profitability, which have been under discussion by the Lobster Advisory Council. These discussions have included various changes to regulations, from rolling closures, decreasing trap limits, changing gauge size and more. McCarron said “everything is on the table,” but any legislative changes would need to consider regional differences and be forced to “sunset” if not working—meaning that built into the legislation is an end unless reauthorized by the legislature. Legislators may also be faced with questions about zone boundary lines as they go out to the three-mile mark, continued McCarron.

One thing legislators are bound to see, said McCarron, is the proposal for the $3 million marketing plan already approved by the LAC and MLA.

White asked whether it would be possible to get the project moving sooner, as the current schedule means the starting funds will not be collected for the marketing program until 2013 or 2014, likely delaying the start of the marketing program to 2014. McCarron said it was unlikely, as the marketing program could not start until the funding mechanism—most likely a surcharge on license fees—is in place.

McCarron said the MLA is not “here to sell you anything, we’re here as a resource.” Strong leadership is needed at the state level to protect fishing jobs and the heritage of these communities, she continued. “We need leaders who are grounded in the community.”

Especially important, said McCarron, is to understand that when a constituent comes to the legislator with a problem with lobstering regulations, helping one fisherman might hurt many others.

“It’s great to help this guy,” said McCarron. “But you have to ask, what does it do for the industry as a whole?”