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Officials consider new lobster size limits in Maine to protect young population

Max Oliver moves a lobster to the banding table aboard his boat while fishing off Spruce Head, Maine, on Aug. 31, 2021.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
Max Oliver moves a lobster to the banding table aboard his boat while fishing off Spruce Head, Maine, on Aug. 31, 2021.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering tighter rules on the minimum and maximum sizes of lobster that fishermen in Maine are allowed to catch.

Recent assessments show a troubling decline in young lobsters, commission and Maine Department of Marine Resources officials say, and because the state's lobster catch is by far the largest and most valuable of any New England fishery, proactive measures might be necessary to protect the spawning stock.

But some fishermen said they're suspicious of that data, partly because Maine's landings — with last year a notable exception — have generally trended upward for more than a decade. And some, including lobsterman Louis Cameron, said the Maine industry is being unfairly regulated compared to fisheries in other New England states and Canada. Canadian lobstermen come in to the Gulf of Maine but wouldn't be subject to the same restrictions, he said.

"Canada's still going to fish. They're still going to have their canners. They're still going to do whatever they want to do, and we're going to foot the bill," Cameron said Tuesday at a public meeting in Freeport on the proposals.

The fisheries commission could change measurement sizes by fractions of an inch in certain parts of the Gulf of Maine if and when certain numbers in the young lobster population are reached. Or, it could simply implement these changes in phases starting no later than 2026. Maintaining the status quo is another option.

The commission is expected to meet in May to make a recommendation. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Maine DMR will host two other public meetings on the proposal, one online on Wednesday, and another in Ellsworth on Thursday.