V-notching is a conservation practice that lobstermen have been employing since the early 20th century. Researchers of UMaine, NOAA and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute estimate that the increase in the Gulf of Maine lobster population in recent decades was more than double what it would have been without such conservation methods. Industry leaders want to ensure that newly licensed lobstermen understand the importance of vnotching in maintaining a sustainable lobster resource so we keep Maine’s vnotching tradition strong. Thanks to the efforts of an anonymous lobsterman and Brooks Trap Mill, all newly licensed lobstermen in Maine will received their own V-notch tool in the mail this summer.
Working with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) and with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Brooks Trap Mill arranged for each tool to be engraved with the lobsterman’s license number. “We felt if the tool were something they were proud of, they would be more likely to use it,” said Stephen Brooks of Brooks Trap Mill.
The engraved V-notch tool will arrive with a ‘Welcome to the Industry’ packet. It will include information on the history and practice of V-notching, a free membership to the MLA and some free items. “We are hoping to make this an annual giveaway,” said MLA membership director Andi Pelletier. “Making the transition to captain is something to be proud of. We want new license holders to have the tools they need to be successful. Literally!”
The project has received praise from the Bureau of Marine Patrol as well. Marine Patrol Colonel Jon Cornish said that identification of a proper V-notch is an issue for Marine Patrol Officers as well as lobstermen. Cuts made with knives can result in tearing. That can leave the next lobsterman who hauls a female up confused as to whether or not she is actually notched. “The confusion is understandable, given that there is no specific definition other than a V-notch of any size or a mutilation that could hide that notch makes that female lobster illegal to possess,” Cornish said. The MLA included a handout with images of accepted V-notches in the packet.
“We want new lobstermen to take advantage of the benefits of MLA membership right away,” said MLA president Kristan Porter. “As the lead advocate for Maine lobstermen, the MLA makes sure that the perspective of its members is heard, not just at the state level but also at the regional and federal levels. Partnering with Brooks Trap Mill was a natural fit. Brooks has been an MLA business supporter for over 20 years.”
Both Brooks Trap and the MLA are deeply grateful to the anonymous lobsterman who started the project. “Maine lobstermen believe in vnotching because they know it works,” said Patrice McCarron, MLA’s executive director. “This tool is important to the fishery,” added Brooks.