A recent GMRI report is generating new conversations about Maine’s lobster licensing system. The Department of Marine Resources (DMR), which reviewed and distributed the report, held a series of 16 public meetings in January to discuss potential improvements.
“The backbone of the state’s economy lies in two areas: tourism and lobster,” said Pat Keliher, DMR Commissioner at a Jan. 14 meeting in Yarmouth. “I hear up and down the coast that we need to do something, but we don’t know what.”
GMRI’s report uncovered potential solutions through an independent evaluation of the current licensing system. The final document offered several recommendations to protect the fishery, reduce wait times, and support coastal economies.
“We found that the expected waiting time to get a license in most regions is at least 20 years,” said Alexa Dayton, GMRI’s manager of the project. “Additionally, the lobster fishery needs a management plan that enables managers to respond to a downturn in the lobster population and prevent overfishing.”
One key proposal was to create a tiered licensing system. Lobstermen would receive licenses that correspond to their usage, greatly reducing the “latent effort” created by license holders that have not actively fished in years. This system would also allow the flexibility for new lobstermen to start with a smaller number of traps and work their way up to the maximum.