Maine's American Indian tribes want state officials to come to the table for a potentially wide-reaching agreement about the way the tribes harvest commercial species of fish.

Maine's tribes have fished for thousands of years and deserve a bigger role in state decision-making, Passamaquoddy legislative Rep. Matthew Dana said. His bill, which is up for a possible committee vote on Wednesday, would allow for cooperative management of lucrative marine species such as lobsters, clams and baby eels.

The tribes' request represents a broadening of an earlier drive by the tribes to reach agreement with the state about fishing for the baby eels, a lucrative species which are also called elvers. The Passamaquoddies and state regulators clashed last year about a state requirement that tribal elver fishermen be subject to individual quotas. The tribe eventually relented.

Dana said his bill, if passed, would allow the state and four tribes to "co-manage" fishing resources. The tribes are currently subject to state law as well as tribal law.

"The tribe has done this since time immemorial. Our culture is fishing," Dana said. "It's about sharing resources within the tribe."

The bill would allow state Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher to enter into a "memorandum of agreement" about fishing management with any of four Maine tribes. The terms of the agreement might then be subject to legislative and tribal approval.

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