State fisheries management is the focus of much of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries’ policy advocacy. The state’s relatively responsive and adaptable legal framework, make collaborative approaches such as ours more possible than in the federal, offshore arena. Furthermore, with the exception of lobster, very few Maine fishermen (>2% in 2012) have permits or licenses to fish in federal waters, outside three miles. Thus, the coastal fishery is the top priority for the future health and diversity of Maine fishing communities. Our advocacy is guided by our principles and strives to create management that can adapt and respond constructively for coastal fishermen as conditions change.
We are advocates for Maine’s owner-operator approach, the law that requires the owner of a boat to be the license holder, directly responsible to the state for their behavior with their livelihood. Owner-operator has been identified by fishery managers from both coasts of Canada and the US as the single policy measure that can sustain community-scale fishing.
On any given day, we may be helping legislators think through bills to promote owner-operator measures for fishermen in scallop and urchin fisheries, attending Lobster Zone Council meetings, or helping local fishermen understand the season’s scallop regulations. We are boots on the ground helping regulators to understand fishermen and fisheries needs while simultaneously helping fishermen to understand complex laws and rules governing their fisheries.
Current Work Highlights
We work with state fisheries managers in a variety of fisheries. Below are some highlights of our current work at the state level.
In 2016, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and some of our Eastern Maine Skippers students testified on the lobster licensing that passed in the legislature to make the apprenticeship program more compatible with completing post-secondary education. We supported the extension to age 20 for completing apprenticeship with the completion of a high school diploma or GED. An extension to age 23 is available to students enrolled at least half time in an accredited secondary institution.
With our facilitation, local fishermen and community members in the Bagaduce watershed have formed a multi-town committee taking steps to reclaim their river harvesting rights and restore their fishways.
Our Senior Scientist, Dr. Carla Guenther, is one of two scientists appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources to the Scallop Advisory Council. This year we worked with legislators to draft legislation to protect scallop fishing rights through an owner-operator requirement, which means that license holders must own the boat they fish from.
The Maine State Legislature sets the structure for Maine fisheries management and each year there is significant activity in the legislature. Regulations are developed by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) supported by a number of advisory councils. In addition, there are several more local management entities in Maine. Municipalities have delegated authority to manage softshell clams and alewives. Maine’s famous lobster zone councils are elected by the lobstermen in each of the seven zones to have the ability to affect things such as hours of fishing, season, numbers of traps on trawls, and the in/out ratio of entry in the zone.