Gear Conflict Discussed at
by FV Staff
Lobstermen and shrimpers discussed fixed and mobile gear conflicts at a meeting here called by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Lobstermen complained that when shrimp season opens the shrimp trawlers drag their gear, either damaging it or causing it to be lost entirely.
Shrimp fishermen, who began fishing December 1 this year, say the lobstermen know when the season starts and that the areas where shrimpers will be towing have been mapped in recent years.
“Our problem is communication, our problem is working together”, said lobsterman Jim Merriman.
Gear conflicts regularly occur along the coast of Maine. When lobstermen said they lost more than 500 traps off Cape Elizabeth last week they called out for help. The DMR called the meeting in an attempt to resolve the problem.
The Marine Patrol led the meeting and Col. Joe Fessenden said he believed the two sides could work things out.
Lobstermen seeking to extend their season, have at the same time had agreements to not set traps in some areas favored areas where shrimpers will be fishing. Typically the shrimpers fish outside until Christmas, but this year the shrimp moved inside early and the shrimpers followed.
Lobstermen said they got notice of this move inside too late to respond. Shrimp gear ran over some lobster gear, which shrimpers said was accidental, adding that running over lobster gear also damages shrimp trawl nets.
However, the early arrival of the shrimpers inside could have caught lobstermen off guard. Some lobstermen argued that lobster is the biggest fishery in Maine and therefore should be given greater consideration.
Glen Libby, shrimper, ground fisherman and NEFMC member, said the areas where shrimpers will be towing have been mapped out by Randy Cushman. This makes it making it easier for lobstermen to plan. There are nautical charts with the tows drawn in.
Libby said there is a lot more gear offshore now, There are “tons of traps where there never was any. There are guys from Rhode Island on Jeffries who set traps where shrimpers tow,” he said. The use of high flyers and radar reflectors on trap trawls of three or more makes it easier for shrimp trawlers to see where lobster traps are set.