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News You Can Use: February 2016

Highflyers Required on Offshore Lobster Gear Major Cloutier informed the Lobster Advisory Council in January that Marine Patrol will soon be actively enforcing federal offshore gear marking requirements in place outside of 12 miles. Federal law requires that lobster trap trawls fished outside 12 miles (North of 42°20´) must have a radar reflector and a single flag or pennant on the westernmost end (marking the half compass circle from magnetic south through west, to and including north), while the easternmost end (meaning the half compass circle from magnetic north through east, to and including south) must be configured with a radar reflector only. Standard tetrahedral corner radar reflectors of at least 8 inches (20.32 cm) (both in height and width and made from metal) must be employed. Furthermore, no American lobster trap trawl shall exceed 1.5 nautical miles (2.78 km) in length, as measured from radar reflector to radar reflector.

We Need your Input! NOAA is planning to conduct a hydrographic survey of inshore Penobscot Bay in 2016 using the 123-foot twin-hulled ship R/V Ferdinand Hassler. Previous surveys resulted in gear conflicts with lobstermen in southern Maine. NOAA is seeking feedback on the scope and location of the area proposed for survey and the survey window that will minimize gear conflict with the lobster industry.

Licensing bill summaryLD 1503, An Act To Create a Class II Limited Lobster and Crab Fishing License and Improve the Limited Entry System, is scheduled for public hearing before the Marine Resources Committee on February 10, 2016 at 10 am. This bill contains provisions to improve the lobster fishery’s entry system and address latent effort. LD 1503 proposes to address the waiting list in three ways:

  1. Change the exit ratio from tags or licenses to licenses for all lobster zones.

  2. Extend the age a student can obtain a commercial license from before 18 to before 23. Under this proposal, you must start the program before you turn 18 and obtain a high school diploma or GED in order to obtain a commercial license without going on the waiting list. You do not have to be a student to use this extra time.

  3. Allow Apprentices who have completed their training to participate in the Island Limited Entry program without having apprenticed in the zone where the island is located. The bill also changes the support required in an island referendum from 2/3 to a majority.LD 1503 proposes to address the waiting list in two ways:

  4. Create a new “Limited Commercial Class II” lobster license that is eligible for only 300 tags and license and marketing fees that are half those of the full Class II license. A lobsterman who purchases this license, cannot go purchase a regular commercial license in future years. This license is not counted toward the exit ratio until it is retired. The existing over 70 half price licenses are eliminated.

  5. Allow a lobsterman to purchase up to the maximum number of trap tags s/he purchased in any previous year.

Do you need a life raft? The Coast Guard has pushed back the deadline on the life raft requirement for vessels fishing outside of three miles to November 1, 2016. For those vessels that operate exclusively in warm water (inside 20 nautical miles from the coastline from July 1 through September 30), the requirement is pushed back until February 1, 2017. The Coast Guard had originally targeted February 2016 for implementation. See the January issue of Landings for more details.

DMR Online Licensing Still no news on the launch of the DMR’s new online licensing system. You can renew your license the old-fashioned way by contacting the Licensing Division at 624-6550 and having an application mailed to you, or you can download one from the DMR website. Fishermen should check the DMR website often for updates on when the online renewal system will be available.

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