AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Legislators and fishermen from Portland will make a final effort to allow ground-fishermen to land lobsters as well as fish...a move they say is needed to save Portland's ground fish fleet.
Draggers haven't been allowed to land lobsters in Maine for years. But they are allowed to do so in Massachusetts. The ground fishermen say that fact has caused many boats that used to work out of Portland to take their catch to Gloucester or New Bedford instead. They say the lobsters are caught by accident, when they drag their nets for other species. Groundfishermen say being allowed to land those lobsters in Portland would keep more boats in Maine, and would create more jobs. The Maine Department of Marine Resources, which is supporting the bill in the Legislature, says last year Maine groundfish boats landed 93,000 pounds of lobster in Massachusetts.
But leaders of the lobster industry say allowing draggers to land lobsters would hurt decades of conservation work done in Maine, and encourage more of the big draggers to deliberately fish for lobsters. Lobstermen say they have just obtained sustainability status for the Maine fishery, and say allowing "trawler lobster" could hurt the Maine lobster's image. However, the trawler fishermen say they're already catching the lobsters, and its simply a question of where they can go to market.
Members of the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee on Monday appeared generally opposed to the change, although they did not take an official vote. Instead the bill was tabled at the request of Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, to allow time to craft an amendment supporters hope can persuade the committee to vote for the bill.