Maine braces for potential closing of four areas to lobster fishing
The New England Fishery Management Council is debating a plan that may limit or eliminate lobster fishing in four areas off the Maine coast that host abundant colonies of deep-sea corals.
The areas in the Gulf of Maine that are being considered for protection include Mount Desert Rock, Outer Schoodic Ridge, Jordan Basin and Lindenkohl Knoll. More than 400 lobstermen fish those areas, which span about 161 miles of federal waters, according to the Portland Press Herald.
The council is considering approval of the Deep-Sea Coral Amendment, which may require gear restrictions in the protected areas. The Maine Department of Marine Resources and Maine lobstermen requested the council provide an exemption for lobster and crab fishing within the protected zones, arguing that the inshore lobster fishery is the primary economic driver for two coastal counties encompassing at least 15 harbors in Maine, but at a meeting in November, the council said it “was not prepared to completely eliminate lobster gear restrictions from consideration at this stage of the amendment process.”
Scientists only recently discovered that fragile coral habitats existed in the areas in question, and during their research, they found evidence that fishing has damaged and denuded the coral.
The council said it will continue to develop regulations that may restrict what type of fishing gear is allowed in the protected areas while potentially including an option to exempt lobster trap fishing from the restrictions. The amendment will face public hearings in the spring, and if approved by the council, it must then also be approved by the National Marine Fisheries service.