ELLSWORTH — A majority of Swan’s Island lobstermen voted in July to move forward with an island limited entry program. At a Department of Marine Resources hearing Monday night at Ellsworth City Hall, no dissenting voices could be heard.
The public hearing was held to take comments on a few changes to the DMR’s lobster fishery rules, including the creation of an island limited entry program for Swan’s Island.
Also on the docket was a technical change to the DMR rulebook that would allow Swan’s Island sternmen to fish up to 600 traps both in the Swan’s Island Conservation Area and in Zone B in compliance with a previous statewide law.
“This is already in effect,” said DMR Resource Coordinator Sarah Cotnoir. “They have been able to fish 600 traps for a few years. This rule change is just to be compliant [with state law].”
The island limited entry program would close the Swan’s Island Conservation Area to any fisherman who is not a resident of the island. DMR could issue a maximum of 72 lobster fishing licenses to Swan’s Island fishermen within a calendar year.
Fifty-six percent of lobstermen who voted in July in the referendum to adopt limited entry supported the program.
The limited entry program would create separate waiting lists for the Swan’s Island Conservation Area and Zone B.
Five Swan’s Island residents are on the Zone B waiting list, and some have been on it for more than 10 years.
If the limited entry program is adopted, those residents could get licenses faster than others on the Zone B waiting list.
Cotnoir said licenses would not be given out until residency on Swan’s Island was proven.
The Cranberry Isles in Zone B and Cliff Island and Chebeague Island in Zone F currently have island limited entry programs. Stonington is considering creating one.
Dan McDonald of Isle au Haut said that he supports what is best for the Swan’s Island community.
“The community should have a say” on the limited entry proposal, said McDonald, “not just the fishermen.”
He said the issue should be decided by the people of Swan’s Island and not the state.
“They know what is best for their community,” McDonald said.
Lobstermen present at the hearing also supported another proposed rule change that would require fishermen to affix a second zone tag to their traps when fishing those traps outside of their primary zone.
For example, a Zone B tag fishing in Zone C waters would be required to have tags for both zones.
Lobstermen would not be able to fish more than 49 percent of their traps outside of their declared lobster zone.
DMR also held public hearings last week on the proposed rule changes in Rockland, Machias and Wiscasset. The comment period closes Sept. 29.
“We want to move forward with this as soon as possible,” Cotnoir said.