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Lobstermen Join MLA in Response to Future Uncertainty

Klye Kennedy, Braydin Kennedy

Kyle Kennedy with his son Braydin.

Maine lobstermen are known for looking toward the future by taking steps to preserve the fishery for future generations. As regulatory and economic pressures increase on Maine’s lobstermen, many are deciding to join the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) as members in order to have a voice in what shape that future may take. Kyle Kennedy of Milbridge fishes his 42-foot H&H offshore and has a new 44-foot Calvin Beal heading to sea in August. Future whale regulations might not affect him as much as they may others because of the way he currently fishes. However, with two boys of his own, Kennedy is uneasy. “There are some people who will be severely affected,” he said, expressing concern for both the young and the older lobstermen who might be fishing smaller boats. With new regulations facing everyone, he decided to join the MLA this spring. “It’s not that I didn’t value the MLA before, I guess I was just busy,” Kennedy said. Now that he is a member, he reads the MLA’s Friday E-weekly regularly and feels more connected to what’s going on. Becoming a member wasn’t a hard decision, he admitted. “I knew the MLA would represent us best.” Jeff Conant is a quiet guy who likes to do his own thing. He too fishes an H&H. This year he goes on his 38-footer with deck extensions, which is an upgrade from the 35’ H&H he owned last year. Conant has always paid attention to what was happening related to lobstering and read the MLA newspaper Landings, which is sent to all commercial lobstermen in the state regardless of their membership in the MLA, each month. But when he heard that changes to whale rules were coming, he decided it was time to join the MLA. “I figure the only way to handle the situation is to band together. I figured the MLA could use help with what we are up against,” Conant said. He fishes seven- and eight-trap trawls off Harpswell. After the recent Lobster Zone E Council meeting with the Department of Marine Resources about possible trawling up to protect whales, Conant was in shock. “The whole thing is mind-boggling,” he said, referring to the proposed requirements. His older daughter Morgan has her lobster license and hauls 10 traps in a 16-foot flat-bottomed skiff. Conant is hoping to get her a bigger boat soon since her younger sister Allison will be eligible for her license next year. His daughters are likely to be lobstering under the new regulations, which Conant feels are unsafe. He’s trusting the MLA to be a strong advocate for himself and those who come after him. Both men are aware that the final whale rules will have serious repercussions for the state’s lobster fishery and and they are both frustrated by the perception that Maine lobstermen are responsible for the right whale decline. In order to lend their voices to the battle against impractical and unsafe regulations, they joined the MLA, an organization that has the knowledge and clout to preserve Maine’s lobstering heritage.

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