By Jeff Nichols, DMR communications director
As many of you know, the Department of Marine Resources has had to increase the cost of trap tags. Commissioner Keliher avoided implementing this increase for as long as possible, but after reviewing different scenarios he concluded that without a cost increase, critically important work and department positions funded by the fees would be in jeopardy.
The Lobster Management Fund (LMF), which derives its revenue from trap tags fees, supports many critically important department positions conducting lobster science, management, and enforcement. These positions are key to sustaining Maine’s valuable lobster resource.
Here’s a breakdown of those positions and the work supported by your tag fees.
Bureau of Policy and Management
The Lobster Management Fund supports a position that is responsible for supporting the Lobster Zone Councils and Lobster Advisory Council, as well as acting as a liaison with the lobster industry to ensure the Department is receiving input on matters of importance to the industry. This role has become increasingly critical as the Department works during the pandemic as it works to address the challenges presented by the situation with North Atlantic right whales.
The LMF also supports a portion of time for multiple staff within the Licensing Division. As the fishery with the largest number of license holders and a complex licensing system (e.g. multiple license types, Zones, tags, etc.), the lobster fishery requires a significant amount of staff resources to ensure the licensing system is properly administered and that license holders receive accurate and timely service.
Here the LMF supports lead position within the Division of Biological Monitoring and Assessment. This position oversees the lobster monitoring and research programs. The LMF also funds the science position that oversees the lobster sea sampling and ventless trap programs, creating new research and programs to advance lobster science, and initiating collaborative research with members of the lobster fishery. This position also represents the department at state, interstate and federal lobster science and assessment meetings.
Other Science Bureau positions funded by the LMF include the lobster sea sampling and ventless trap programs, a field sampling position for the lobster sea sampling and ventless trap surveys, and a Landings Program position that monitors dealer and harvester licenses, and contacts dealers and harvesters to assist them with meeting their monthly reporting obligations.
Two Office Associate positions in the Landings Program are also funded by the LMF, including one that serves as the first point of contact for harvesters in need of assistance with their mandatory reporting and one whose primary responsibility is to enter landings data (submitted via paper) by harvesters and dealers who have mandatory reporting obligations.
The LMF also supports critically important enforcement of the state’s marine resource laws. The Fund supports six positions within the Bureau of Marine Patrol including three Marine Patrol Officers, two Boat Specialists, and one administrative support position.
The Department has been able to do this work since 2009 without an increase in trap tags. But there are only two companies that we have found to be able to produce tags; their costs have skyrocketed over the last several years and DMR cannot afford to absorb those costs. We hope for continued support by the Legislature for the important work outlined here so that we won’t have to consider a tag increase for many more years.