Written by Jen Finn
AUGUSTA — Maine-based groundfishing boats that catch lobsters in federally regulated waters will likely continue to face the threat fines as large as $50,000, with the defeat of a bill that would have lifted the state-assessed penalties on Maine fishermen.
The House voted 106-38 Tuesday to reject the bill, which supporters billed as a last-ditch effort to keep the remaining few dozen groundfish boats in the state. Last week, the Senate voted 28-7 to defeat the bill.
L.D. 1549 was designed to ensure that the groundfishing fleet can keep lobsters that come up in trawl nets and sell them in states that allow such lobsters to be landed.
Opponents said the bill would lead to further loosening of restrictions on sales of incidentally caught lobsters, a practice the lobster industry fiercely opposes because of concerns about its impact on the state’s most valuable fishery.
The votes in the Senate and House broke largely along regional lines, with many lawmakers from the Portland area voting to remove the penalty provision and lawmakers from elsewhere voting to defeat the bill.
The remainder of Maine’s groundfish industry, and its infrastructure, is based primarily in the port of Portland.
James Odlin, who owns and operates three groundfishing boats in Portland and two in Massachusetts, is one of the dozen or so fishermen who would have benefited from the bill. Odlin has also pushed for other “bycatch” legislation, including a proposal by Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, that would have allowed Maine trawlers to land and sell lobster bycatch in Maine.
Read the full story at the Portland Press Herald>>
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