Sponsor tries to muster support for lagging lobster bycatch bill

A groundfishing boat is tied up outside the Portland Fish Exchange on Thursday.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A groundfishing boat is tied up outside the Portland Fish Exchange on Thursday. Buy Photo
By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff
Posted April 22, 2013, at 6:58 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A legislative committee tabled a bill Monday that would allow fishermen to sell in Portland the lobsters they catch offshore while dragging for groundfish.

Sen. Anne Haskell, a Democrat from Portland, the bill’s sponsor, requested that the Marine Resources Committee table the bill until Wednesday after she realized there was very little support for the bill among committee members.

“Hearing the committee members talk, I realized there was going to be no — or very little — support for the bycatch option as presented and hoped they’d give the fishermen, the city of Portland and the commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources a couple days to see if they have other options if they put their heads together,” Haskell told the Bangor Daily News on Monday.

Haskell said the goal of the bill, LD 1097, is not just about allowing groundfishermen to land their lobster bycatch in the state, a practice that is currently illegal, but to find a way to support Maine’s fishermen and Portland’s working waterfront.

The bill would allow fishermen to only land their lobster bycatch in Portland, allowing regulators to keep track of the number caught. The law would benefit Portland businesses such as the Portland Fish Exchange and Vessel Services, which provides fuel and ice to fishing boats.

The bill is controversial. Maine lobstermen oppose it, which makes it tough for the bill’s proponents to gain support among members of the Marine Resources Committee, who live in areas populated by lobstermen, Haskell said.

“Lobster is an iconic Maine brand, and if the lobstermen are unhappy that’s a very difficult hill to get over,” she said.

Haskell couldn’t say what other options the bill’s proponents — fishermen, the city of Portland and the Department of Marine Resources — might be able to come up with by Wednesday.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/22/politics/state-house/sponsor-tries-to-muster-support-for-lagging-lobster-bycatch-bill/ printed on August 23, 2014