Steaming Ahead – Why become a MLA member?

Why become a member of the MLA?

Dustin Delano, is vice president of the MLA board of directors.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) was founded by a group of lobstermen in 1954 and currently is the largest fishing industry association on the East coast. The MLA represents and advocates for Maine lobstermen from Kittery to Cutler and helps protect the lobster stock they depend on to support their families and local communities. Without the advocacy and support which the MLA provides, the lobster industry would likely look much different today.

My name is Dustin Delano, a fourth-generation lobsterman from Friendship. Since 2014, I’ve been a proud member of the MLA and have served on the board of directors since 2015. I am the MLA’s Vice-President and have served on the executive committee for the last few years. It’s been an absolute privilege to stand beside fellow lobstermen who make up the 21-member board of directors, ready and willing to fight for the preservation of our industry, undoubtedly the most sustainable fishery in the world.

“Why should I become a member of the MLA?” you ask. To me, the answers to that question are endless. Maine lobstermen are some of the most independent and hardworking individuals on the planet. In recent years, I’ve witnessed and been part of the expansion of a successful, sustainable fishery that has been nothing but a blessing to Maine families and their communities. Since 1954, the MLA has served as a direct line of support and a resource to bring lobstermen together to build the fishery we have today.

The MLA has been directly responsible for beneficial changes and protections for the lobster resource and the lobstermen who have harvested it for decades. In the 1960’s, the MLA convinced politicians that lobster traps were the only gear that should be used to catch lobsters, keeping draggers from destroying the stocks.

In the 1970’s, the MLA worked with Congress to pass legislation preventing Maine lobstermen from paying payroll taxes for their sternmen, saving them thousands of dollars annually.

In the 1980’s, the MLA again fought to protect lobster stocks from draggers while also convincing fisheries managers of the importance of V-notching along with the 5” maximum and 3.25” minimum gauges.

In the 1990’s, the MLA fought for the 100 pounds/day, 500 pounds/trip limits on lobsters caught by draggers in offshore federal waters. In the 2000’s, the MLA fought to protect the inshore herring fishery and supported new research to accurately measure the size of the herring stock thus maintaining a stable bait supply.

In the 2010’s, MLA successfully pushed for an area-based approach to whale rules, keeping 70% of Maine waters exempt from the federal rules.

During the last five years or so, Maine lobstermen have been caught up in an explosion of issues facing the fishery. Fortunately, the MLA has continued to advocate on their behalf, navigating through uncharted waters with unforeseen problems lurking in every direction. With issues such as offshore wind, a dwindling bait supply, the federal government’s persecution of lobstermen with the 10-year whale plan, public relations nightmares, erratic lobster prices, record high expenses for bait and fuel, local and federal legislative hurdles, and so on, there is no better time than now to become a member of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. Your membership helps preserve, protect, and advocate for the lobster fishery we love and appreciate.

In September 2021, the MLA filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. District Court, challenging the federal government’s flawed 10-year whale conservation plan—a plan that will all but eliminate one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world yet still fail to save the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

After nearly 14 months, the MLA hired additional counsel and is prepared to save the fishery at whatever cost, even if that means taking its case to the United States Supreme Court. When you see MLA vs NMFS in the headlines, it’s a reminder of exactly who has your back and is trying to preserve a heritage dating back generations.

With that said, joining the MLA is a “no-brainer.” Just as you purchase insurance for your vessel, MLA is your insurance of a future in the Maine lobster fishery. Not only is it your own insurance, but it is also for future generations to come. Be a part of the preservation of the customs, traditions, and responsibilities that have been passed on for generations — become a member of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association today. Visit https://www.mainelobstermen.org/membership or call 207.967.4555.

Justin Mazzerole of Buxton is a young and committed member of the MLA. Are you?
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