ELLSWORTH — The Department of Marine Resources plan to bring magnetic swipe cards to the sea urchin industry has been put on hold.
Last year, DMR announced that it would require sea urchin fishermen to use swipe cards similar to the ones used in elver fishery whenever they sold urchins to a licensed dealer.
Dealers were required to record every purchase using DMR approved card readers and to report their purchases to DMR daily using software supplied by the department. Magnetic swipe cards and daily dealer reporting have been required in the urchin fishery since 2014.
Late last month, DMR announced that it was suspending the swipe card requirement until the fall of 2016.
“We didn’t have enough time to test the software,” DMR Resource Coordinator Trisha Cheney said recently.
Although the hardware used by dealers would be similar in both fisheries, Cheney said, “we needed time to develop a new app for people in the field. We didn’t want to put out something that was not bulletproof.”
The Maine urchin fishing season is split in two, with early and late segments. The season also is regulated by gear, so that divers, rakers and trappers fish on different days than draggers.
This year, the early season for divers, rakers and trappers fishing in the western part of the state (Zone 1) ran for 15 days in September. In eastern Maine (Zone 2), the early season began Oct. 1 and extends for 38 days through Dec. 29. There also are late seasons, beginning in December, in both zones.
Rob Watts collects dealer and harvester reported commercial landings data at the DMR. Initially, he said, the reporting program was under development jointly with the Massachusetts fisheries management authorities, but the collaboration encountered some snags that delayed development of an app that would run on Apple, Android and Windows cell phones.
“We weren’t comfortable putting something out that wasn’t ready,” Watts said. “It’s better to wait and get it right the first time.”