For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - A bill sponsored by Rep. Peter Doak (R-Columbia Falls) to improve the enforcement of marine resources laws received its public hearing before the Maine Legislature's Marine Resources Committee Wednesday.
The bill, LD 1723, was crafted by the state's Department of Marine Resources and would grant courts and Marine Resources officers more flexibility and authority to better protect natural resources while exercising more discretion in punishing offenders.
"This bill is a big win for anybody who makes a living on the sea," said Rep. Doak. "I was pleased to see such strong support for it at the public hearing. These are commonsense measures designed to make it easier for marine resources officials to do their jobs while allowing for more fairness for those who work in the fishing industry."
Rep. Doak's bill would make the following changes to marine resources laws:
1. Allows the Commissioner of Marine Resources to enter into an interstate wildlife violator compact allowing for reciprocity in state licensing.
2. Amends and updates the laws regarding seizure and disposition of property by investigators.
3. Allows the commissioner to impose the same licensure penalties for civil adjudications as with criminal convictions.
4. Toughens penalties for repeat offenders.
5. Allows a court to suspend fines imposed for violations of lobster laws, allowing for more discretion by the courts toward offenders.
6. Creates a temporary exemption from owner-operator requirements for an individual who holds a lobster and crab fishing license, has sold one vessel and is purchasing another.
7. Lowers the fines for harvesting shellfish without a municipal shellfish license, harvesting shellfish in violation of a license restriction, and violating the laws related to lobster processor licenses.
8. Provides that violation of certain laws governing crayfish dealers is a civil violation rather than a Class D crime, as in current law.
Among those testifying in favor of the bill was the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which sees the bill as measure to combat over-criminalization. The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Wayne Parry (R-Arundel), a commercial lobsterman.
"I look forward to seeing this comprehensive reform bill move forward and I thank those who testified in support of it," said Rep. Parry. "The Department is doing a great job overall at making much-needed changes to fisheries regulations while protecting our natural resources."
The reform proposal will be scheduled for a committee work session before votes in the full House and Senate.
Maine House Republicans
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