Lobster Enforcement laws strengthened in response to industry concerns

First published in Landings, July, 2017

On June 14, Governor Paul LePage signed into law LD 575 An Act To Improve the Enforcement of Maine’s Lobster Laws. Because this law is now in effect, it is important that every license holder is
aware of the changes it makes.

This legislation strengthens the laws that exist to manage and sustain Maine’s lobster resource for the benefit of all license holders. “I want to commend the lobster industry for initiating these changes, and supporting them through the legislative process,” said Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “I have heard many concerns about the cheating that has been occurring in this fishery, and I am aware of the frustration it has caused the majority of our fishermen, who are honest and law abiding. I sincerely hope that these new penalties will serve as an effective deterrent to these behaviors.”

The new law imposes minimum and maximum license suspension lengths for violations determined to be the most damaging to the lobster resource and to other fishermen. The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) stresses that all harvesters should understand that if they are found guilty of one of these violations, there is no flexibility on the suspension length. The law requires these minimums to apply. 

Also, if a harvester is found guilty of one of the violations (listed on page 17) and has been found guilty of the same violation within the last seven years, the prior offense will be considered when the length of suspension or revocation is determined.

For violations classified as criminal, Marine Patrol may obtain a warrant from a judge to authorize the use of a tracker (to record the speed and location of a vessel) without notifying the individual under investigation, if the judge determines that there is probable cause to suspect that a violation is being committed.

As a result of LD 575, trap molesting has been made a criminal violation, as has fis

hing untagged gear in excess of 25 traps ( fishing fewer than 25 untagged traps remains a civil violation). Fishing over the trap limit, fishing sunken trawls, and artificially removing the eggs from a female lobster (scrubbing) are already criminal offenses.

Following a license suspension for one of the violations listed in the table below, the DMR Commissioner is also authorized to require the fisherman reentering the fishery to use a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) for a length of time equal to that of the license suspension. In addition, a fisherman may be limited to only 300 traps when re-entering the fishery, with the ability to build up by 100 traps per year until the zone limit is reached.

Finally, arson and other means of destroying another lobsterman’s vessel are now violations for which the penalty is permanent revocation of the lobster license.

Harvesters with any questions should contact DMR Commissioner Keliher’s office at 624-6553, or the nearest Marine Patrol Division Office at 633-9595 (Division 1) or 667-3373 (Division II).