AUGUSTA, Maine — An in-depth review of the Maine Department of Marine Resources says the agency needs to be restructured and its activities prioritized.
The department is currently not structured or managed in a way to carry out its purpose as stated under Maine law, according to the 90-page document, which was released Friday.
The review contains more than three dozen recommendations ranging from staffing and fiscal matters to fishery management, lobster processing and aquaculture. One recommendation suggests that the state initiate a process to gradually cut the number of lobster traps in Maine waters, to reduce pressure on the state’s most valuable fishery.
The report and its recommendations should serve as a tool going forward in how the department is reorganized and how it sets priorities, Gov. Paul LePage said.
“Staff is dedicated and professional, but it is time to refocus and rethink the direction of the department,” he said.
The report was compiled by three out-of-state independent consultants with a combined 133 years of experience in fisheries management, science and private fishing business operations.
Maine’s commercial fishing harvest in 2010 was valued at $452 million, with a final value to the Maine economy estimated at $1 billion to $1.2 billion.
There are opportunities to increase the economic value and job growth in the fishing economy by rebuilding and managing fish stocks for sustainability and adopting policies to make “Maine a more fish business-friendly state,” the report states.
The state should take action to diversify sources of income for commercial fishermen so the fishing economy isn’t so reliant on lobster, which accounts for 70 percent of the value of the state’s seafood harvest, the report says.
“Failure to do so could jeopardize a number of coastal communities, should there be even a slight decline in the lobster resource in the future,” the report reads.