I have heard from many lobstermen and community members who are planning to travel to Augusta tomorrow for the public hearing on LD 170, " An Act To Permit the Landing of Lobsters Harvested by Methods other than Conventional Traps" or what has come to be called the lobster dragging bill.
There has been some confusion about the timing of the hearing and I wanted to make sure folks knew the hearing is scheduled for 9am, tomorrow, March 5th, and will be held at the Augusta Civic Center. At some point the hearing was listed in error at 1pm, so please spread the word to those who might be planning to travel to Augusta.
If you are coming from an island or traveling far and can't get there at 9am, don't worry. There are many people who are planning to testify on this bill and another bill is being heard that day by the Marine Resources Committee, so the public testimony will last at least several hours, so people who arrive by 10 or 11am will still be able to provide public comment. There is a good chance the hearing will still be in session at 1pm for those who can't get there in the morning. And please don't let this discourage you from coming. It is important that the lobster fishing community attend this hearing and speak up about their concerns.
Just a few notes on the Public Hearing Process: Because so many people plan to testify (which is good), it is important that folks keep comments to 3 - 5 minutes so that other people have a chance to speak. Remember to introduce yourself giving your full name and where you are from. If you want to bring written copies of your comments, make 20 copies so your comments can be placed into the record and given to each member of the Marine Resources Committee. While written comments can be helpful, it is not necessary that anyone brings written comments or copies of their comments. Many members of the public testify at hearings just speaking off the cuff and it is just as effective so don't worry about writing down your comments if you don't have time.
If you can't attend the hearing but want to make your voice
heard, you can email, write, or call the members of the Marine
Resources Committee. Their names are listed at this site
and if you click on their names, you'll find their email, address,
Marine Resources Committee: http://janus.state.me.us/house/jt_com/mar.htm
See below for information on the Lobster Dragging bill below from my last newsletter as well as a copy of the bill.
Hope you are enjoying this Sunday.
Maine House of Representatives, District 36
** LOBSTER DRAGGING HEARING SCHEDULED
There are more than two thousand bills that have been submitted for
consideration on every topic from slaughterhouse regulations to property tax
relief. A controversial proposal to allow the sale of lobsters in Maine
that are caught as bi-catch by ground fishermen has rightly caught the
attention of Maine's lobstering community and is likely to be a fierce
debate. A hearing has been scheduled for Monday, March 5th, following the
annual Fishermen's Forum, and I strongly urge people to make their voices
heard in this debate.
The measure was put forth by the Portland Fish Exchange and
is that because Maine does not allow for the sale of lobsters caught by
draggers or ground fishermen (mostly as bi-catch from ground fishing), Maine
is losing ground fishermen landings to Massachusetts, where lobsters can be
sold as bi-catch. The reality, even cited by ground fishermen, is that
because of serious federal restrictions for "days at sea", Southern Maine
docking fees, and diesel fuel tax costs fishermen often return to Gloucester
or other Massachusetts ports rather than Maine. The Portland Fish exchange
has seen a drop in business mostly due to a decline in stocks and allowable
days at sea. But this is problematic in the long-term for shoreside
infrastructure like the Portland Fish Pier because if and when Maine's
ground fish return, the exchange will serve as an important market tool for
the industry. Many at the state level and in the fishing industry believe
that other measures (other than allowing the sale of drag lobsters in Maine)
to aide the fish exchange may be more appropriate.
This proposed measure disregards the successful and long-time
practices of our lobster industry by encouraging the harvesting and sale of
dragged lobsters. Many believe this measure will increase the dragging of
lobsters, impact off-shore lobster brood stock, spark gear wars with
off-shore lobstermen and ultimately impact the success of Maine's current
industry. I believe this bill to allow for dragged lobsters should be
defeated and that alternative measures to support the ground fishing
industry must be considered.