STONINGTON, Maine — A local man has been charged with multiple criminal violations after being found in possession of illegal lobsters and another fisherman’s equipment, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Theodore Gray, 34, has been charged with possession of undersized lobsters, possession of V-notched lobsters and molesting lobster equipment, according to DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols. Gray was arrested Friday, May 9, after officers with Maine Marine Patrol found him in possession of 269 lobsters shorter than the minimum size limit, 123 breeding female lobsters that had been marked with a V-shaped notch on their tails, and 20 traps that belong to another licensed lobsterman, Nichols said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
“Through my 28-year career I have only seen a handful of what I would call extreme violations like this involving the taking of short lobsters,” Marine Patrol Major Jon Cornish wrote in the statement. “In the last 24 years, there have only been two such cases, which make this one of the most egregious violations I have seen.”
Several aspects of this case remain under investigation and additional charges may be filed, according to Nichols.
Maine law requires that harvested lobsters measuring less than three and a quarter inches be released immediately. State law also requires fishermen who catch female lobsters with eggs to use a V-notch tool or a sharp knife to remove a quarter-inch-deep portion from the flipper immediately to the right of the center one, and then immediately return it to the water. These are conservation measures aimed at protecting the resource to make sure the lobster fishery remains robust, according to DMR officials.
Maine’s commercial lobster fishery is the biggest lobster fishery in the country and by far the most valuable commercial fishery in Maine. In 2013, nearly 126 million pounds of lobster with a record total dockside value of $364 million was caught by Maine fishermen.
Possession of undersized lobsters and V-notched lobsters are considered Class D crimes in Maine, which are punishable by up to a year in jail, according to Nichols. Potential financial penalties include $500 for each violation and $100 for each lobster involved up to and including the first five, plus an additional $200 for each lobster in excess of five lobsters. Molesting lobster gear is a civil violation with a potential fine of between $100 and $500.
In addition to jail time, the potential total amount in fines that Gray is facing for allegedly possessing undersized lobsters is $53,800. For the alleged V-notch offenses, he faces another $48,200 in fines.