Proposed legislation that would allow Maine’s groundfishermen to sell lobsters that they unintentionally catch in their trawling nets has led to some fierce debate among different sections of the state’s fishing community. On one side are the fishermen, who have traditionally relied on harvesting flounder, pollock, haddock and other types of groundfish. With this fishery facing huge cuts, the ability to sell lobster bycatch to supplement the regular catch is regarded by them as a crucial source of additional revenue. But those who lobster for a living are opposed to the proposal. Tom Porter reports.
Jim Odlin owns and operates three groundfishing vessels out of Portland. He says there’s a lot at stake.
The state stands to lose a whole industry,” says Odlin, who was at the State House Monday to testify at a public hearing in favor of LD 1097 – an Act to Allow the Sale of Incidentally Caught Lobsters. This would allow groundfishermen who pick up lobster by-catch in some offshore federal waters, to sell it at the Portland fish market.
Maine is the only New England fishing state that prohibits the practice. Massachusetts, for example, allows fishermen to land up to 500 lobsters per 5-day fishing trip. As a result, Odlin says his boats have been forced to unload in Massachusetts, rather than in Portland, Maine, where they’re based. And he says that is costing Maine jobs.
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