First published in Landings, January, 2013.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) mailed letters in December to lobster harvesters who were selected to report in 2013. Regulation passed in 2007 requires 10% of all lobster harvesters (except lobster apprentices) to report trip level catch and effort information. Harvesters are selected randomly, based on their zone and license type, but harvesters cannot be selected in consecutive years (except Monhegan harvesters who are required to report annually).
DMR has fourteen fisheries with harvester reporting regulations, including the lobster fishery. The DMR Advisory Council passed the lobster harvester reporting regulation for two reasons: to collect catch and effort data from the lobster fishery for management purposes and to come into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Addendum X to the lobster fishery management plan.
Fisheries managers rely on a variety of information from which to manage. Landings data are a cornerstone of assessing the health of a fishery, and dealers and harvesters provide this information. Dealers report what they buy directly from harvesters; however, dealers do not provide the specific effort information that is needed to monitor this resource. The effort data harvesters provide includes number of traps hauled, set over days, and a general area in which the traps were fishing. All of this information is used to calculate catch per unit of effort (CPUE). In addition, this “two ticket” system of dealer-reported and harvester-reported information is used as a check and balance against one another to ensure the data collected are accurate.
The reporting regulation also brings Maine into compliance with the ASMFC Addendum X to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American lobster. The ASMFC is a compact made up of all fifteen Atlantic coastal states. Each state has agreed to abide by the same rules to manage species that migrate along the Atlantic coast and being a member state, Maine has agreed to comply with these management plans. Addendum X established a coast wide reporting regulation for dealers and harvesters which calls for at least 10% reporting from all lobster harvesters.
In order to ensure all information required under DMR regulation is submitted, the Maine Legislature has given DMR the authority to withhold license renewals from any harvester or dealer who fails to submit the required information. DMR’s Landings Program sends out reminders to those who are delinquent in reporting to help the industry comply with the regulations without having to withhold licenses. Landings data are protected as confidential according to 12 M.R.S. §6173 and Chapter 5 regulations. Data released to the public are summarized such that no information is released in a manner that identifies any individual or business.
DMR looks for ways to ease the reporting burden on harvesters. Currently, harvesters may fax, email, or mail reports to DMR; those who report to National Marine Fisheries Service may submit data to that agency electronically without having to send DMR any additional paperwork. In the near future, DMR also hopes to have a secure website available for those wishing to electronically report directly to DMR. We hope that all harvesters can understand their role in this data collection is vital – the information provided by harvesters will be used to manage the fishery in the future. The data provides a means to evaluate fisheries and help managers make better informed decisions to ensure a sustainable future for Maine’s fisheries.