News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 14, 2019 and The Weekly Packet, February 14, 2019
New DMR policy: crab traps need tags

by Anne Berleant

In a change of state policy, crab fishermen must attach a valid lobster trap tag to all traps used to catch crabs, the Department of Marine Resources announced on February 6. Previously, top entry crab traps fished in state waters did not require a lobster trap tag.

“The change is all about vertical lines,” Marine Patrol Major Rene Cloutier explained. The policy change comes at a time when regulators, including fishermen on the American Lobster Management Board, are already working to reduce vertical lines—the rope that attaches trap to trawl line—to protect the endangered North American right whale before the federal government takes measures that affect the commerical fishery.

Cloutier said the expanding jonah crab fishery also played into the policy decision.

“There are a lot of hardworking fishermen who are willing to put a day in working on crabs,” Cloutier said. “If you don’t have tags on those traps, you’re going to be putting more vertical lines in the water.”

Lobstermen are allowed to fish up to 800 traps, and each requires a tag for the zone it will be placed in.

“If you just left the policy the way it [was], people could put as many vertical lines with the crab traps” as they wanted,” Cloutier said.

The DMR announcement stated that fishermen with crab traps submerged in coastal waters without a valid lobster trap tag should contact their local Marine Patrol Officer to work through this policy change.

Cloutier said that given the change to a long-standing policy, and weather keeping fishermen on land for much of January, there’s no set deadline for fishermen. “We’re looking to working with fishermen to make everything legal. There’s no line in the sand,” he said.