Former longtime Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine, Dana Cowin, travels from New York City …
Maine’s Sustainable Fishery
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.
Originally published in CIAProChef.com