Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 17, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, May 17, 2018
Zone C meeting addresses boundaries
by Anne Berleant
The lines between the seven Maine lobster fishing zones and the open waters beyond the coast dominated a May 7 Zone C lobster council meeting in different ways.
A rule proposed to the Lobster Advisory Council as a boost to offshore lobster fishing would allow commercial fishing across zones beyond the 12 mile line, former Maine Marine Patrol Colonel Joe Fessenden told fishermen. Vessels would be monitored through satellite tracking to identify “what’s going on in the offshore fishery,” he said. “There’s a lot going on there now.”
Currently, monitoring the offshore fishery is difficult, Fessenden said, with Massachusetts and New Hampshire lobstermen fishing offshore in Maine, which is legal under federal and state law.
“Guys from Portsmouth are fishing in Zone A and guys didn’t know it,” Fessenden said, and even stealing gear “on the way down.”
The proposal would allow lobstermen to opt in to fish year-round three to 12 miles under the existing zone trap limit but not go inside the three mile line. Outside the 12 mile line for offshore fishing, the trap limit would be set at 800.
While Fessenden predicted the rule wouldn’t pass, he warned, “Zone lines haven’t changed but the fishery has.”
However, zone lines have shifted, reflecting changes in the magnetic fields, about one degree a year, Department of Marine Resources scientist Kathleen Reardon said. “You may have lost a mile. [This] is fixing it.”
“Who’s going to decide where the lines are going to be?” council Chairman David Tarr asked.
“It’s already done,” Reardon said, noting a map is available on the DMR website. “They didn’t change the law, they changed where the lines were.”
In Zone B, an upcoming proposed trawl limit would cap the number of traps to five from the Maine Six Mile Line to the 25675 line. The rule will be decided upon by DMR Commissioner Pat Keliher, DMR lobster council liaison Sarah Cotnoir said, and is the topic of a May 22 public hearing at Ellsworth High School at 5 p.m.
The proposed rule comes out of a referendum vote by Zone B fishermen that passed by two-thirds, but Zone C fishermen noted that less than one-third of license holders actually voted. The proposed rule would affect Zone C fishermen fishing in Zone B. By rule, lobstermen may place 49 percent of their traps in a different zone than they are licensed in, if the traps are tagged for both zones.
Additional information shared at the council meeting included:
Annual trap tags are valid from June 1-May 31. In May only, current and upcoming year tags are legal; otherwise tags must reflect correct year. This means no putting next year’s tags on before May 1, per Marine Patrol Officer Brent Chasse.
100 percent reporting requirement begins in five years, with DMR’s expectation that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will assume the cost of creating electronic reporting system.
17 new Zone C licenses were awarded for the 2018-19 season on 1:1 ratio; 17 remain on waiting list.
Low settlement density findings could mean settlement is spread deper, and over a wider area, from Friendship to Schoodic, per DMR scientist Kathleen Reardon.
Five right whale deaths reported in U.S., 12 in Gulf of Saint Lawrence , Canada, in 2017; four from blunt trauma (ship strikes) and one from entanglement. Slower ship speeds in U.S. have decreased right whale injury and fatality.
Three council seats up for election this year, held by David Tarr, Andrew Ladd and Robert Ray.