Groundfish industry mulls Maine bill’s defeat

AUGUSTA, Maine — Having been denied permission to land lobsters, members of Maine’s groundfish industry are saying they may have to consider moving or expanding their businesses further south.

Many in the industry had supported LD 1097, a bill that would have allowed groundfishing boats to bring lobster bycatch ashore in Maine. The measure would have brought extra fishing income to Maine and helped Maine’s groundfish fleet and shore-side infrastructure stay afloat as they face tighter restrictions on groundfish stocks, they said.

But the bill went down in defeat last week when the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee unanimously voted against the bill. The bill’s defeat means that Maine will continue to allow only lobsters caught in traps to be brought ashore in the state — and, according to groundfishery industry members, will ensure that many Maine groundfish boats continue to offload their catch in Gloucester, Mass., where lobsters caught by trawlers can be kept and sold.

Maine’s lobster industry, which is by far the largest and most influential commercial marine fishery in the state, had vigorously opposed the bill on the grounds that it could harm the lobster resource and diminish efforts to market Maine lobster and a sustainably harvested product. In 2012 the statewide lobster fleet caught nearly $339 million of lobster. By comparison, the value of the state’s groundfish landings were approximately $5 million.

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