Getting into Maine’s lobster industry takes time. In some cases, people are on the waiting list to get a license for decades.
The Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources says keeping an estimated 300 people on the waiting list is bad for the industry, and wants to make the process move faster.
“We have skipped a generation of fishermen in this industry,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher.
An act to “Improve the Limited-Entry System” would streamline the process for getting a lobster license in Maine, making it easier for students to complete the apprenticeship program and increasing the fees for lobstermen over the age of 70.
It would also encourage zones to determine their exit-to-entry ratio differently. Currently, Keliher said the ratios are determined by the number of traps a lobsterman holds in the final year of his or her license. He wants zones to consider his or her historical fishing effort instead, to get a more accurate number for the allowable new traps.
Keliher hopes it allows more people to get off of the waiting list, and into the water.
“For the people on the waiting list, it’s not far enough, and for the people in the fishery, we went too far,” he said.
Lobstermen testified for and against the bill before the Committee on Marine Resources Wednesday.
David Cousens told lawmakers the current system is not perfect, but this bill does not fix its problems. Instead, Cousens said it could let too many people into the industry.
“You can’t legislate to let everyone do what they want to do,” he said. “I am concerned about people in this industry being able to make money.”
Several students also testified, pleading with lawmakers to ease the rules for the apprenticeship program. High school student Caleb Hardie said it’s difficult to complete the required 1,000 hours in the training program before the age of 18, while balancing school and community activities.
The committee will have a workshop for the bill before holding a vote.