News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 22, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, February 22, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, February 22, 2018
Maine lobstermen must report total catch

by Anne Berleant

New regulations passed February 6 by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission require 100 percent catch reporting by all Maine lobster and Jonah crab fishermen within five years. Developing an electronic reporting method for Maine fishermen is also under way.

“We argued against it heavily for quite a while,” Sen. Brian Langley (R-Ellsworth) said. “Stonington lands more than all of Southern New England.”

Langley, along with Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher and Stephen Train of Long Island, represent Maine on the commission.

“It’s like a game of Survivor down there,” Langley added. With the collapse of the lobster industry in Southern New England, “Maine sometimes is up against other states.”

Currently, only 10 percent of Maine lobstermen, selected randomly within specific categories, are required to file catch reports for each trip. Fishermen in the 14 other ASFMC member states report all their catch.

However, Maine has the largest lobster fishery of all member states, producing about four-fifths of the nation’s lobster harvest.

“It’s unfortunate states with a few hundred fishermen voted for Maine fishermen,” said Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle), House Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources and 2018 candidate for state senator.

Keliher’s motion to maintain current harvester reporting efforts was amended to add that 100 percent harvester reporting be required within five years—better than the immediate adoption of the regulation that had been earlier presented. A further amendment, that if a commercial harvester landed less than 1,000 pounds of lobster or Jonah crab in the previous year a monthly summary could be submitted, was also successful. The amended motion unanimously passed, as did a provision to develop electronic reporting.

“The Commissioner is really great at reading the room,” Langley said. “At some point you’re looking to mitigate the hardship and the damage to Maine, because you’re just outvoted.”

Catch reports data is used to help regulators estimate the number of lobsters off the East Coast, information on gear used in the fishery, and how lobster fishing overlaps with other marine activities and impacts the marine environment. The ASMFC stated in a February 7 press release that the new regulation addresses concerns that current requirements “are insufficient to respond to external management actions.”

An ASMFC subcommittee will be evaluating an electronic reporting system that may offset the estimated $500,000 annual cost for 100 percent reporting in Maine. Currently, lobstermen send in daily reports on paper by mail or fax, or by manually entering into a database.

“It’s too early to know exactly what if any cost will result from the 100 percent harvester reporting,” said Jeff Nichols, DMR Director of Communications.

For Langley, his goal “is to make sure going forward” that electronic reporting be in place before 100 percent reporting is mandatory in Maine to avoid Maine being hit with a hefty price tag.