Lawmakers advance McDonald proposal to extend legal lobster harvesting hours

Tue, 02/01/2022 - 9:45pm

AUGUSTA — Members of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee voted Tuesday to advance a proposal by Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, that would extend legal fishing hours for Maine’s lobster industry.

LD 1759 would change the legal start time to 4 a.m. during the month of September. Under current law, start times from June 1 to September 30 are a half hour before sunrise, which means start times are more than two hours later at the end of September than they would be under McDonald’s proposal.

“During a time when the lobster fishery is under tremendous pressure, I am grateful to be able to have an opportunity to make this small positive change, which will allow fishermen to complete their work earlier in the day so they can attend to business onshore and spend more time with their families,” said McDonald. “In the fall, lobsters move further from shore and fishermen are putting in longer days shifting gear, so the time difference has a substantial impact.”

The Maine Department of Marine Resources supported the measure during Tuesday’s public hearing, saying it will provide “a practical benefit to fishermen” and noting a similar effort in 2017 that extended legal hours in the month of October.

“Over time, patterns of fishing activity have evolved, with fishermen fishing later into the fall, as well as farther offshore. In consideration of these changes, the laws regarding haul times have also been revisited,” said Deirdre Gilbert, director of state marine policy for the department.

The vote was unanimous among the 10 committee members present. LD 1759 will face consideration by the full Legislature in the coming weeks.

McDonald, House chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Marine Resources Committee, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents the Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Vinalhaven and Marshall Island Township.