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Sustainable Lobster Harvesting


"We are a proud sponsor for the University of Maine Lobster Institute because we believe in the long-term preservation of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem over short-term profits."

- Julian Klenda, Owner of Maine Lobster Now®

 

Sustainable Lobster Fishing in Maine

Lobster fishing is a major part of the local economy in Maine. That is why sustainable lobstering practices have been in place here for well over a century. Our company is dedicated to adhering to these practices. Caring for lobster populations and our local community are top priorities for us at Maine Lobster Now. 

The word sustainable in regards to fishing means that a population is "able to be maintained at a certain rate or level." The goal of sustainable lobster fishing in Maine is to maintain a healthy lobster population long-term. Over the centuries, Maine has become famous for the lobster found here, which has increased demand not only nationally but all over the world. This means that Maine has also become dependent on this natural resource. The long-term health of lobster populations is essential to our way of life here, which is why we all take this so seriously.

The goal of sustainable lobster fishing in Maine is to maintain a healthy lobster population without fishing it down to biomass levels. This allows lobster reproduction and juvenile lobster growth rates to keep pace with harvests. The result is that lobster populations are not overfished and customers like you can continue to enjoy this tasty seafood for years to come. The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) ensures this happens year after year. The DMR will frequently work with the University of Maine Lobster Institute (of which Maine Lobster Now is also a proud sponsor!) to continue to research lobster migration patterns, reproductive cycles, and the impact that different types of fishing (not just lobstering but draggers, also known as fishing trawlers and other fishing vessels) have on the lobster population.


A Limited Number of Lobster Fishing Licenses

Limited lobstering licenses

There is a waiting list to get a lobster fishing license. 

  To limit the number of lobsters being caught, the first thing the state does is regulate the number of fishermen in the state. These licenses are not easy to come by. Lobstering is a limited-entry fishery, and there is a long waiting list to get a license. If you want to be a lobsterman, hurry up and wait. Once you complete a lobstering apprenticeship you are on the waiting list - some have been on this list for over a decade! The only way to get around the waiting list is to be grandfathered in (available if you are a direct descendant of a lobsterman). The waiting list only moves when a lobsterman retire and doesn't renew their license.

To fish in deeper waters beyond three miles of the coast, a federal permit must be obtained from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the governing body authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to administer federal fishing regulations relative to commercial fishing of all kinds. The federal lobstering permits have larger trap limits, closer to 1400 traps, as boats cannot tend their traps as frequently. For more information relating to federal offshore regulations please visit the NOAA website (and note, lobster is in the sustainable fisheries category of fisheries):

We wish to note here that, beyond fishery sustainability, lobstering in Maine has earned an important "seal of approval" from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute as an ECO-FRIENDLY fishery!

Apprentice Program

There are a number of hours each stern-man (a lobsterman's helper) needs to complete before even being able to apply for a lobster fishing license. This is to help ensure that each lobsterman understands the importance of sustainability. If you want to get your license without getting on the waiting list, you have to finish your apprenticeship before you are 18 years old. The apprentice program requires at least 200 days on the water which has to add up to at least 1000 working hours. You need a licensed lobsterman as a sponsor to log hours with.  

Lobster apprentice program

The lobster apprentice program helps teach new fishermen the value of sustainable fishing. 


Support and Sustainability for Lobsters and Our Community

Legal limit of lobster traps

Each Lobsterman is allowed 800 traps.

 

Maine Lobster Now takes pride in sourcing all of our lobsters directly from lobster fishermen who are as dedicated to safe, sustainable lobster fishing as we are. Lobster fishing is a central part of our local community, and we are committed to contribute by buying from fishermen we know and trust. 

Today there are around 5,900 legally registered lobstermen and women in Maine. Maine does not allow fleets of lobster boats because they want to provide this source of income to local, individual lobstermen while supporting the local economy. With literally millions of buoys off the coast of Maine, the industry supports thousands of jobs onshore as well, not just the people hauling traps.

The State of Maine Department of Marine Resources has clear guidelines for lobstermen to adhere to while fishing. These regulations are dependent on the lobster population size and health in each designated fishing zone. There are seven zones that run along the coast of Maine labeled A - G. Lobster fishermen must have a license and know the trapping limits within each zone they fish, which can range anywhere between 600-1,200 traps per season. Fishermen must also clearly mark lobster traps and adhere to all other fishing guidelines within the state, all of which can be found here

 


Maine Lobster Legal Size Limit - Large and Small

Lobster Measure Diagram

Lobster Measure Gauge

This is the first practice towards sustainability after the trap limit. This regulation limits very small developing lobsters from being harvested, as well as large 'breeder' lobsters. This is a great way to keep lobsters reproducing. Lobsters are measured using a Lobster Measuring Gauge which is used to measure the carapace. Legally harvested lobsters have a carapace (hard shell from eye to beginning of tail) of at least 3.25" but no longer than 5". Each side of the "lobster measure" is used to measure either a small or large lobster so lobstermen quickly know whether it's something they can sell or have to throw back.

Gauging of a Maine Lobster to assure legal size

Gauging a Maine lobster to assure legal size. 


Protecting Female Lobsters with Eggs - V-Notching

When a lobsterman pulls up their trap, if they see a female lobster with eggs under the tail, they know it's critical to return this lobster back into the ocean to continue to reproduce. Before they throw the female lobster back in, they will mark one of her flippers on her tail by harmlessly taking a small piece of her fin off, what's called a v-notch. Then, if another lobsterman pulls her up, they will know not to harvest this particular lobster.

Keeping a v-notch lobster or a female lobster with eggs can result in a large fine. DMR takes this very seriously and has zero tolerance for fishermen who don't abide by this regulation.
 

Female lobster with eggs and a v-notch

Example of a female lobster with eggs and v-notch.


Why Sustainability Matters Now More Than Ever

The lobster harvest is growing annually. The worldwide demand for lobster has grown significantly along with the number of lobsters being harvested. With such a booming demand for lobsters in Asia and only a limited supply, maintaining the overall lobster population is critical for sellers and buyers alike. As you can see, the volume of lobsters being harvested is higher than ever, and so is the amount being exported. If the lobster population starts to decrease there will most likely be more limitations on harvesting and the price may discourage current buyers, so sustainability is playing an ever-growing role in local and world economies alike. The bottom line, sustainability is great for everyone!

Lobster Harvest Annual Volume Growth Chart

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