NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — Maine lobstermen and scallop and quahog harvesters are among those weighing in at public hearings this week on a proposed federal fishery management action. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEMFC) staff held a webinar hearing and in-person meetings in Brewer and Portland on the council’s proposed Amendment 2 to its Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat document.
Among the alternatives before the council when it meets next in April is closure of a large area that runs from Vinalhaven past Mount Desert Rock to all fishing gear “capable of catching groundfish.” The area would be designated a “habitat area of particular concern” and flagged for future council attention and study.
Under current definitions, “gear capable of catching groundfish” does not include lobster traps, but some are nervous that could change. Five options have been considered for these habitat areas with specific kinds of gear prohibited. “Option 5” for the Eastern Gulf of Maine area in question is for a “complete restriction on use of gear capable of catching groundfish.”
“The Large Eastern Maine habitat management area is exactly that: large, encompassing nearly 1,700 square kilometers of the most productive lobster fishing grounds in New England,” said Stonington lobsterman and Maine Lobster Advisory Council member Genevieve Kurilec McDonald. “While the current proposal does not include a restriction on lobster gear, I’m not willing to gamble on the uncertainty that lobster gear could be restricted in the future under Option 5.”
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