Guest Column: Massachusetts Lobster Season in Full Gear

With the 2017 fishing season in full gear and lobsters being landed and the price holding around $4.75-$6.00lb, the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association continues to be engaged in the numerous issues that the commercial fishing industry is facing. There never seems to be any downtime, as you in Maine know all too well. The Association is working on issues related to the National Marine Monument, North Atlantic right whales, advocating for more law enforcement, organizing the Annual Weekend and Trade Show for next January and much more.
As the Trump Administration has settled into Washington, D.C., and is reviewing 26 previous designations of National Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries, we are hopeful that the designation of 4,913 square miles of profitable, sustainable and historic fishing grounds in the North Atlantic will be rescinded or redefined to the smallest possible size.
The Association and several other fishing organizations are proud to be working with the Pacific Legal Foundation which filed a lawsuit in March challenging President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act when he declared 4,913 square miles a no-go zone for all commercial fishing while exempting recreational fishing. The lobster and crab fleets that will be displaced at the end of seven years from these fishing grounds are going to have to move over 11,000 lobster and crab pots somewhere else. We hope to have great news to share with you eventually as the Association and several other commercial fishing organizations are still working to have this designation rescinded or redefined.
Whales seem to be consuming more and more time, effort and resources. If you think back on how much time and effort has been spent to help bring back the population of North Atlantic right whales from 50 to 524 you could have dug the Panama Canal by hand! Now, you know I am kidding; who would dig the Panama Canal by hand? Well, on the other hand a lifelong commitment and personal quest to rebuild a population of whales is what the commercial fishing industry is up against on a daily basis. The need for more management or restrictions was clearly apparent after the Marine Mammal Commission and Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team meetings earlier this year. This is where they discussed how horrible the overall condition of the North Atlantic right whale population was and the impact of interactions with fishing gear and vertical lines.
Some presenters talked about how interactions with vertical lines contributed to the declining birthing rates and said that more management was needed to protect them. When there have been at least ten North Atlantic right whale deaths in Canada this summer attributed to ship strikes, snow crab gear and undetermined causes, look no further for the problem. Here in Massachusetts we have a three-month closure in order to protect the whales when they are in Massachusetts Bay, so how much more is needed? The Association will continue to advocate on behalf of our fishermen in hopes that they will gain some relief after these events to the north.
The number-one item on our agenda when meeting with elected officials is the need to increase the numbers of state Environmental Police Officers on the water, as we hear about the habitual offenders and their blatant actions that ultimately hurt everyone in whatever fishery. These offenders’ actions today in the lobster fishery will have serious consequences in the future if they continue taking shorts, scrubbing eggers, fishing sunken trawls or fishing over the pot limits as each illegal lobster taken today reduces the number of future lobsters born into the stock. Congratulations to the State of Maine for standing behind your Marine Patrol and commercial lobster industry by passing LD 575.
I saved the best for last! Many of you have attended the Association’s Annual Weekend and Trade Show in previous years; it is a must if you have not! The Association’s Weekend is open to the public, with over 50 vendors, seminars, silent auction, comedian, casino night and the infamous hospitality suite where you will have a lot of laughs and great camaraderie.
The Annual Weekend Committee each year looks for new vendors with new products for your benefit. Each year the vendors have Show specials for those of you looking to buy what you need at sharply reduced rates. Cash and carry deals are ongoing throughout the weekend and if you have not experienced this, then it’s time for you to come and make a deal!
Remember, we are all in this together, from Virginia to Maine, and collectively we can make a difference. What do you think? I’d like to hear from you (beth.casoni@lobstermen.com).

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