DEER ISLE — Two Hancock County lobstermen are among the four lucky winners of a Department of Marine Resources lottery for the opportunity to get a scallop dragger license in time for the upcoming fishing season. The winners have the chance to become the first new entrants into the scallop fishery since 2009.
More than 1,200 people entered the lottery, according to DMR.
The local winners of the recent DMR lottery include Deer Isle lobsterman Johnathon Oliver and lobsterman Frank Gott from Bar Harbor. Two Washington County residents, lobsterman Matthew Alley from Beals Island and Chase Fitzsimmons from Lubec, also were lottery winners. Fitzsimmons has crewed on a scallop boat.
Each lottery winner will have to apply for their scallop dragger license within 30 days of being notified by DMR. Under a law passed by the 2018 session of the Maine Legislature, license holders must own the vessel they will fish from that is designated on the license.
The new licenses are the product of a limited entry system mandated by the Legislature that allows a harvester who did not hold a scallop license in the previous year to be eligible for one.
In developing the limited entry program, the department consulted with the Scallop Advisory Council, which recommended that eligibility for the lottery be limited to individuals 18 years of age or older to ensure that new licenses are awarded to individuals who are likely to use them.
The advisory council also recommended establishing the lottery for drag licenses to ensure that there is opportunity for both younger (between 18 and 30 years of age) and older fishermen.
Under the regulation, each year two individuals will be awarded eligibility for a drag license through a lottery for every three individuals who did not renew their drag license in the previous calendar year. One of the licenses issued will go to a fisherman in the younger age group, the other to a fisherman older than 30.
There is also one dive license available each year for every commercial dive license not renewed during the previous calendar year. No dive licenses were retired in 2017, so there were no dive licenses available in the current lottery.
Of the 1,290 lottery entrants, 401 applied for the 18-30 category and 889 submitted lottery applications for the 31 years and older category.
Lottery winners were chosen at random by InforME, an enterprise created in 1997 by state law to ensure access to public information through technological solutions.
Harvesters are not eligible for the lottery if they have been convicted or adjudicated of a marine resource violation that resulted in the suspension of a DMR license within the past seven years. To be eligible for the lottery, entrants must be 18 years of age or older, must have held a commercial scallop license or have crewed aboard a commercial scallop vessel, and must not be a current commercial scallop license holder.
Beginning next year, eligible lottery entrants will have the opportunity to enter the lottery one additional time for each consecutive year they have entered the lottery.
Maine’s scallop fishery has rebounded since 2009, when landings were 665,758 pounds, to 6.6 million pounds harvested in 2017, the most since 1998.