Maine’s Sustainable Fishery

June 3, 2015

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Maine’s lobstermen learned early that unregulated fishing could destroy their livelihood. They began protecting the resource for future generations as early as 1872, when the first law was passed protecting egg-bearing females.

Today, the state’s lobster fishery is a prime example of successful self-regulation. Although the overall catch isn’t limited and the season runs all year, many rules keep the harvest sustainable. Here are a few:

Maine has minimum and maximum size restrictions to protect both juveniles and the large, healthy breeding stock. Harvesters carry a gauge that measures the lobster from the eye socket to the rear of the body shell (where the tail starts). Specimens measuring less than 3-1/4 inches or more than 5 inches go back in the water.

A female with visible eggs on her tail can’t be kept. Before tossing her back, the harvester notches her tail to identify her as a good breeder. Lobsters with notched tails must be returned to the water even when they’re not showing eggs.

Maine sets a statewide trap limit, and individual lobstering zones have their own trap limits.

New harvesters have to apprentice with veterans to learn the regulated sustainable practices, and only a limited number of new licenses are issued annually.

Harvesting in Maine is by traps only—no diving or dragging allowed. Traps must have escape hatches for small lobsters and a biodegradable hatch in case the trap is lost.

The Maine Lobster Seed Fund, supported by license fees, purchases and returns to the sea those females that extrude eggs after landing.



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