Significant sticking points that remain have hindered efforts by the LePage administration and lawmakers to steer the $40 million industry away from the brink of closure by federal authorities.
State officials are trying to balance conservation of the fishery with the sovereignty of the tribes, including the Passamaquoddies. The tribe issued 575 licenses last year, well above the state limit of 200, and that led to a clash between law enforcement officers and Passamaquoddy fishermen on the banks of the Pennamaquan River in Washington County.
A bill backed by the LePage administration and sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle, would invalidate elver licenses issued by any tribe without ratification by the state, set catch limits for individual fishermen, and impose criminal penalties for all elver fishermen who violate state regulations.
Lawmakers’ consideration of the bill was complicated Wednesday as tribal representatives and members of the LePage administration met with the state Attorney General’s Office to discuss a deal that would exempt tribal fishermen from the catch quotas and the criminal penalties, while keeping the current regulations for all other elver fishermen.
The agreement also would allow tribal members to catch as many elvers, collectively, in the season that begins March 22 as they did in 2013.
In exchange, the tribes’ fishermen would participate in a new state-issued swipe card system designed to track the catch daily while assigning it to individual harvesters and dealers. Also, tribal fishermen would use only dip nets, not the fyke nets that typically ensnare more of the baby eels.
Read the full story at the Portland Press Herald>>