Maine DMR announced new gear marking requirements for Maine lobstermen in November 2019. As with anything new, there have been lots of questions from lobstermen about why these changes are needed. Maine’s Marine Patrol provided a comprehensive overview of the new gear marking regulations during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum and answered many commonly asked questions.
By September 1, commercial lobstermen in Maine must change the marks they make on vertical lines. The change is mandated by the state, not federal government.
Question: Why do we have to do this?
Answer: It is important that we be able to differentiate Maine lobster gear from other Northeast trap/pot fisheries. Currently, all trap/pot gear in New England is marked with the same color (red). Different gear markings by state will enable future regulations to be more spatially specific.
Question: Where do we have to do this?
Answer: All Maine lobster gear must be marked. Areas shoreward of the exemption line have one marking scheme while areas seaward of the exemption line have another marking scheme.
Question: What do I do in State waters inside the exemption line?
Answer: Three purple marks are required inside the exemption line. This includes a 36” purple mark in the top two fathoms of the vertical line and two 12” purple marks at the middle and bottom of the vertical line.
Question: What do I do in the sliver area (from the exemption line to federal waters)?
Answer: Four purple marks and one green mark are required in the sliver area. This includes a 36” purple mark and a 6” green mark in the top two fathoms of the vertical line. Three 12” purple marks are also required in the top, middle, and bottom of the vertical line.
Question: What do I have to do outside state waters (beyond 3 nm)?
Answer: The regulations are the same as in the sliver area – four purple marks and one green mark.
Question: What about green marks now used?
Answer: 6” green marks are required in the top two fathom of vertical lines outside of exempted waters. Green marks are not permitted inside exempted waters and must be removed if gear is moved shoreward of the exemption line.
Question: Is there an exception for vertical line marks in very shallow waters?
Answer: There is currently a proposed rule which would allow vertical lines which are 100 ft or less in length to only have two purple marks. This would include one 36” purple mark in the top two fathom and a 12” purple mark at the bottom of the line. The public comment deadline for this proposed rule is March 20th.
Question: What do I have do when I move my gear from outside 3nm into exempted waters? And vice versa?
Answer: When moving gear from non-exempt waters to exempt waters, the 6” green mark must be removed from the vertical line. While only three purple marks are required in exempted waters, you do not have to remove additional purple marks when moving gear into exempted waters. When moving gear from exempt to non-exempt waters, a 6” green mark must be added in the top two fathoms of your vertical line. An additional 12” purple mark is also required in the top of the vertical line.
Question: Can I use two fathom of purple rope as my 36” mark?
Answer: No, you have to actually make a 36” purple mark on your line. This mark can be made of purple rope that is spliced into your existing vertical line; however, the purple rope section should be 36” in length.
Question: Do I have to mark both endlines in my trawl, wherever it is set?
Answer: Yes, all vertical lines must be marked.
Question: Can I make more than 3 purple marks on my rope?
Answer: You can make as many as you like; however, you must have a minimum of 3 purple marks in exempted waters and a minimum of 4 purple marks in non-exempt waters.
Question: Can I use a toggle strap as my 36” purple mark in the top 2 fathom?
Answer: Yes, if the purple line is 36” in length and the vertical line is a color other than purple it would be identifiable as a mark.
Question: What else can I use to make the required purple marks?
Answer: Paint, zip ties, unraveled purple line, tape, twine.
Question: What constitutes the middle of my line if I have several fathoms coiled under the buoy?
Answer: The middle of the line is half of the length of the endline; if a portion of the endline is hanked up temporarily this will not affect a lobsterman’s compliance. If the lobsterman prefers, he/she may add additional purple marks.
More Questions on Gear marking? Contact your local Marine Patrol officer or visit the DMR website