ROCKPORT — The Maine Lobstermen’s Association will hold its annual meeting at 9 a.m. Friday, March 4, at the Samoset Resort during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. MLA members will vote on new board members, review the organization’s accomplishments of the past year and hear a keynote presentation by Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Norman Olsen.
The MLA will host a session called “Surviving the Whale Rules” at 1 p.m. in the Rockport Room. Over the past 10 years, lobstermen have learned to deal with weak links, area closures, gear marking and sinking groundlines in order to comply with federal regulations designed to protect endangered Northern right whales, which frequent the Gulf of Maine each year. Using such ‘whale-friendly’ gear has posed many challenges, often causing lobstermen to alter how their gear is rigged and where they fish.
The afternoon session will bring together lobstermen, whale researchers, rope engineers and manufacturers to learn more about the problems lobstermen face each day as a result of the whale regulations. Lobstermen will talk about the adaptations they have made as a result of sinking line and other required gear. Researchers will provide an overview of studies on the modified gear and the application of the results to Maine. New areas for future research will be discussed, including testing new ways to rig, rotate, haul and manufacture gear and assessing the useful remaining life of rope.
Lobstermen are invited to bring rope samples, pictures and stories that describe some of the challenges they face. Lobstermen will be asked to fill out a card during the meeting with feedback on the greatest number of traps lost in a month, the biggest challenge faced fishing with sinking rope, the biggest success in fishing with sinking rope and changes made to how gear is rigged or fished.