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Regulators hold off on requiring lobstermen to install electronic trackers on their boats

Maine Lobster
Robert F. Bukaty
Lobster fishing boats head out to haul traps, Thursday, July 30, 2020, off Portland, Maine. The coronavirus pandemic has reduced demand for the crustaceans, forcing the price of lobster to drop well below last year's level. More than 100 million pounds of lobster were landed in 2019.

Regulators are holding off on a plan to require lobstermen to install electronic trackers on their boats. Members of the American Lobster Management Board Tuesday considered a raft of industry concerns about the technology's purposes, its cost, and data-privacy, and then decided to take more time to evaluate the issues.

"The lobster fishery is a difficult fishery to enforce rules in, because of the vast area we cover and the number of people," said Steve Train, a lobsterman from Long Island, Maine, and a member of the regional board.

"Most of the rules are obeyed because they're believed in. And when you shove something down somebody's throat (that) they don't buy into, you change the entire outlook of the way they operate," Train said.

Scientists and conservationists support the electronic tracking program, saying it will provide much-needed data that can help the lobster fleet and vulnerable marine life coexist, as well as protect the fishery when offshore wind projects are being sited along the Atlantic seaboard. The lobster board agreed to delay final action until its next meeting, in the spring.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.