AUGUSTA — The Department of Marine Resources has adopted new regulations to deal with a conflict over lobstermen setting traps in more than one lobster management zone.
Earlier this month, the DMR Advisory Council gave its approval to a rule requiring lobstermen to use a second zone tag on all traps when fishing those traps in a zone other than their declared lobster zone. The second tag supplements the tag indicating the harvester’s declared lobster zone tag.
Lobstermen are required to choose one of the state’s seven lobster management zones in which to fish, but they may fish up to 49 percent of their traps in another zone. The new rule will help the Marine Patrol enforce the 49 percent-51 percent component of the limited entry rules governing the fishery.
The double tagging rule drew less than universal support from harvesters. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association offered lukewarm support for the rule.
Some fishermen argued that it would be too difficult to make sure their traps had the correct tags when the gear was shifted from one zone to another. Some harvesters from Winter Harbor who set a lot of their traps outside the 3-mile state waters limit complained that their offshore fishery has traditionally encompassed both zones A and B depending on the time of year.
In a statement announcing the new regulations, DMR said that while it “appreciates the difficulties posed by double tagging to fishermen who have historically fished gear across zone lines,” “continues to receive complaints regarding lobstermen fishing a majority of their gear outside their home zone.”
Although this is the first time that double tagging will be required on a statewide basis, the concept is not new. For several years there have been similar requirements for fishermen in zones B and C and in zones F and G. Those rules have not caused any “undue difficulties” for harvesters fishing in those areas.
The statement from DMR also said that the department is aware that many fishermen “have historically fished in both zones along a zone line” and that the Marine Patrol will use “good discretion” enforcing the line issues.
“The second zone tag is not intended to affect fishermen that have always straddled the zone line, and fished a minority of their gear in a neighboring zone,” DMR said.