Legislature kills lobster bycatch bill

Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013 in News

Legislature kills lobster bycatch bill

Members of Maine's lobstering union (in orange) meet with senators.

by Andi Parkinson

Members of the Maine Lobster Union met with legislators last week to urge them to vote against LD 1549, “An Act To Provide an Exemption for Incidentally Caught Lobsters.” They held a press conference in the Hall of Flags, making their case against the bill put forth by Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Cumberland.

Originally intending to allow holders of a commercial fishing license who caught lobsters in their nets to possess and/or sell the accidentally caught crustaceans as is allowed in Massachusetts and under federal law, the bill instead placed those few remaining licensees in a position to do what opponents called irreversible damage to the lobster industry and thousands of jobs as a whole, as the sustainability of the industry would be compromised by the taking of breeding stock and over-sized lobsters.

In the Senate floor debate, sponsor Haskell acknowledged the concerns of the lobstermen, but also stated that as the practice is allowed in federal waters, not one lobster would be saved by her colleagues voting against the bill.

Fisherman Jim Odlin, who operates three vessels out of Portland, supported LD 1549 and asked, “The question is, does Maine want to have a small toe-hold in what’s left of the groundfishery, or do we want to give it up altogether?”

Members of the union disagreed.

Said Joel Pitcher of Jefferson: “This bill would cause harm to this important Maine industry and to the thousands of men and women and families who depend upon it.”

Rock Alley of Jonesport agreed. “It’s only going to annihilate our breeding stock of lobsters by allowing these fish draggers to come in.”

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After the initial Senate vote of 28-7 opposing the bill, the union released the following reactions:

“We’re very pleased that the Senate voted down LD 1549 today. Dragging for lobsters is fundamentally damaging to the resource that we are working so hard to protect. As lobstermen, we need the Legislature to enact laws that will help us protect our industry. We want our children and grandchildren to have the chance to preserve our way of life on Maine’s islands and coast, and that depends on the sustainability of the industry,” Alley said.

"Today's vote showed strong support here in Augusta for Maine’s hardworking lobstermen. We thank the senators who opposed loosening dragging regulations and stood in support of a sustainable Maine lobster industry. We will continue to work hard to ensure this bill meets final defeat,” Pitcher said.

Ultimately the Legislature voted to kill the bill.

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