Another lobster bycatch bill hits Maine Legislature

AUGUSTA, Maine — Despite highly visible defeats for Maine groundfishermen who have tried to overturn a state law that prohibits them from possessing lobsters, there may be hope yet for easing the restriction.

For the third time in six years — and the second time in the past two months — a bill that would legalize the practice is being considered in the Legislature.

Two earlier legislative proposals that would have allowed Maine groundfish boats to keep their incidental lobster bycatch and to land it in Maine have died in committee. In March 2007 and again this past April, the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee voted unanimously that each proposal ought not to pass.

Members of Maine’s lobster trap fishery strongly opposed both prior proposals, which contributed each bill’s defeat. Each time, lobstermen argued that allowing groundfishermen to keep the lobsters they drag up would place undue pressure on the resource and have an adverse effect on the lobster industry’s bottom line.

This time around, however, the idea has received partial support in the legislative committee and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association — the largest commercial fishing advocacy organization in Maine — has decided to remain silent.

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