Maine lobstermen will have to put a second tag on all traps set outside their local fishing zone starting next June. The Maine Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council approved a double-tagging proposal Thursday [November 10]. Fishermen in four of the state’s seven lobster management zones already had to put second tags on out-of-zone traps, but with this approval the double-tagging rule must now be followed by boat captains all along the state’s 3,500-mile coastline.
The rule was sought by the Maine Marine Patrol to make it easier for officers to enforce fishing boundaries and curb costly trap wars. According to state rules, lobstermen can set up to 49 percent of their traps outside of the fishing zone where they are licensed. But without a second tag, Marine Patrol officers had trouble enforcing that rule unless they hauled and tracked half of an individual lobsterman’s traps.
Since many commercial lobstermen are allowed to fish up to 800 traps, the marine patrol would have to enlist two or three officers and two or three vessels to haul 393 lobster traps to prove that a lobsterman was setting too many traps outside the zone where he is licensed to fish. The marine patrol would do that when it got a complaint, but fishermen knew that it was a time-consuming and costly process not likely to happen very often.
Under the new rule, the marine patrol would only have to haul one out-of-zone trap that didn’t have a second tag to prove that a lobsterman was breaking the 49/51 rule. In practice, the marine patrol would haul more than one trap, maybe even several dozen, to learn if a fisherman had accidentally set a trap out of zone or to confirm that an out-of-zone tag hadn’t simply come off in rough waters.
June 1 is the date when lobstermen switch to a new tag year. Primary tags cost 50 cents each. Out-of-zone tags will cost 10 cents each.
Some lobstermen support double-tagging, saying it prevents people from roaming the coast and fishing in another lobsterman’s turf, but others say that double-tagging is an administrative hassle for lobstermen who live along the zone boundaries. They say zone lines were created as political boundaries – to give lobstermen a voice in the management of the fishery – that have since turned into permanent fishing boundaries.
Eight members of the advisory council voted in favor of double-tagging, state officials said. One member, fisherman Michael Love of North Yarmouth, abstained. A few council members who represent areas where double-tagging is already required didn’t attend the meeting, saying the new rule didn’t affect the daily lives of their constituents.