Governor LePage Signs DEP-Supported Bill to Remove Red Tape for Lobstermen

April 6, 2011

Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary for Maine Governor Paul LePage or Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson

AUGUSTA - Maine lobstermen have one less piece of red tape to wade through thanks to Representative Jonathan McKane and Governor Paul LePage.

Governor LePage signed LD 49 last week, a bill which allows Mainers to store lobster traps and related trap lines, buoys and bait bags on docks. Prior to the bill signing officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had the authority to prohibit and regulate the storage of traps on docks.

"This is just one example of the good work our legislators are doing to remove unnecessary regulation which will ease the burden on working families," said Governor LePage. "LD 49 seeks to rectify this wrong in our regulatory system."

Representative Jonathan McKane of Newcastle sponsored LD 49, which was passed unanimously by the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. McKane informed committee members during the public hearing regarding LD 49 that over the past three and a half years a lobsterman in South Bristol has been fighting with the DEP to get permission from them to store his traps, when they are not being fished, on his new dock.

The Department has made that decision based on a recommendation it had received from the state agency that reviews marine habitat that the presence of the traps on the docks caused a "permanent loss of habitat" as a result of the traps shading the seaweed below. When that outside recommendation was eventually revisited, the position was reversed as it was determined that the shading from the traps did not have an unreasonable impact on the habitat and DEP reopened the permit and allow the year-round trap storage.

Maine DEP spoke in favor of this commonsense change and the clarification it provides at the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee hearing on LD 49 in February.

Rep. McKane says it is unfortunate that it took this long to get something off the books that is so vital to one of Maine's most traditional trades. "This is something that never should have happened, but I'm happy that we have found a solution," he said.

Chester Rice of Damariscotta requested the bill and says it's common sense reform for lobstermen. "Lobstermen won't have to put up with that bureaucracy again and that's a good thing," Rice says.

According to the Island Institute, Maine's working waterfront supports more than $740 million in State revenue and 35,000 jobs. The Maine Lobsterman's Association supported the passage of LD 49 testifying to the fact that the State of Maine boasts 5,300 miles of coastline, but only 20 miles of working waterfront remain. But, nearly 60% of our working waterfront is privately owned, and therefore is vulnerable to conversion to non-working waterfront uses. Patrice McCarron, Executive Director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association told lawmakers that Maine's 5,500 commercial lobstermen are individual owner operators, and they depend on fully utilizing this access to go to work each day.

"This bill is good for Maine's working waterfronts, the lobster industry and our economy," McCarron said.

The bill will go into effect 90 days after the last day of session.