Lobster fishing is vital to Maine’s economy and culture. To ensure its sustainability, the state has implemented laws regulating lobster harvesting, including size limits and gear restrictions. These laws promote responsible fishing practices and prevent overfishing.
By adhering to the regulations, lobstermen, and consumers can help protect Maine’s lobster fishery and ensure a sustainable livelihood for future generations.
Lobster Season & Licensing
Timing Matters: Lobster Harvesting Season
Lobstermen are permitted to set traps from June 1st to September 1st. On Saturdays, traps can be hauled after 4 pm, but on Sundays, they cannot be hauled at any time.
These regulations ensure that the lobster population remains sustainable, preventing overfishing and providing ample time for lobsters to grow and replenish their stocks.
Non-Commercial Lobster/crab Harvesting License
If you are interested in lobster and crab fishing as a hobby, obtaining a non-commercial lobster/crab harvesting license is important. The Maine Department of Marine Resources is responsible for issuing these licenses, and interested individuals can apply through their website or in person at the appropriate office.
Some key points about this license are:
- Age requirements: The license is available to those who are 12 years of age or older.
- Trap limits: Non-commercial license holders are limited to using five lobster traps.
- Catch restrictions: Lobsters must adhere to minimum and maximum size limits, and egg-bearing females are strictly protected. Violations involving possession of egg-bearing lobsters or removing eggs can result in significant fines.
Lobster Sizes: What Size Can You Catch?
Lobster fishing is an important industry in Maine, but there are strict regulations in place to ensure the sustainability of the lobster population. According to the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance, lobsters that are legally catchable must have a shell length between 3-1/4 inches and 5 inches.
Any lobsters caught outside of this size range must be returned to the ocean to allow them to grow and reproduce. To ensure compliance with these regulations, lobstermen use a gauge to measure the size of their catch.
This helps to preserve the young lobster population and maintain the sustainability of the fishery. However, a 2019 survey found that almost 80% of lobsters caught in traps were below the legal size range and had to be released back into the ocean.
Violating these regulations can result in severe fines. For example, possessing more than five lobsters that exceed the maximum size limit can result in a fine of $400 for each lobster. If egg-bearing female lobsters are not immediately released back into the waters, fines can range from $2,500 to over $10,000.
Recently, there have been discussions about changing the current size regulations to protect the lobster population better. Although no new rules have been put in place yet, these changes could result in stricter size limitations in the future, further ensuring the sustainability of the lobster fishery in Maine.
Egg-Bearing Females: Why They’re Off-Limits
Maine has strict laws in place to protect egg-bearing female lobsters, also known as “berried” lobsters, to prevent overfishing and maintain a sustainable lobster population for future generations. Female lobsters play a critical role in this process by laying eggs that hatch into new lobsters.
The reproductive process begins when a female lobster lays fertilized eggs that attach to the underside of her abdomen, a phase known as spawning. The eggs take about 9 to 11 months to hatch, during which time the female lobster keeps the eggs under her tail. The eggs are as small as a pinhead, making it easy to identify egg-bearing females.
Maine lobster laws prohibit the harvesting of egg-bearing females. If a berried lobster ends up in a trap, lobstermen are required to perform a “v-notch” in the tail flipper to the right of center, signifying that she was once caught as an egger. This mark ensures that, even after her eggs are released, other lobstermen will be able to recognize and return her to the water, allowing her to reproduce more in the future Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance.
These measures reflect the state’s commitment to sustainability and the protection of its iconic lobster industry. Violating these laws can result in hefty fines: capturing lobsters exceeding the size limit draws a $400 fine per lobster. In contrast, possession of many egg-bearing lobsters could incur a minimum fine of $2,500 and potentially up to $10,000.
The Type of Buoy
The lobster industry in Maine is heavily regulated, even down to the type of buoy used by lobstermen. Each fisherman must use a specific color combination for their buoys, which helps identify their gear. They must also comply with precise measurements:
- Minimum buoy size: 3.5 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches in length
- Maximum buoy size: not restricted
Lobstermen are also required to mark their statewide license number and the letter “L” (indicating lobster) on their buoys, which ensures that the buoys can be easily traced back to their registered owner in case they are lost or stolen.
The type of buoy used is also important for lobster conservation efforts. Certain buoys, such as breakaway buoys, are designed to reduce the risk of entanglement for marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.
Maine’s Department of Marine Resources sets lobster trap limits to manage and conserve the fishery. Chapter 25 of their regulations governs lobster and crab fishing, including trawl limits and sustainability measures.
Each lobster management zone has specific rules for trap limits and gear configurations. The Maine DMR website provides detailed information on gear marking and modifications, which are crucial for lobster fishermen in these zones.
Maine Lobster Management Zones:
Effective May 1, 2022, new regulations protect North Atlantic right whales. The minimum traps per trawl requirements for each zone have been modified; maps are also available online.
- Zone A: International Boundary Line with Canada, extending to the Exclusive Economic Zone boundary and intersecting with Zone B’s eastern boundary.
- Zone B: Described in DMR Chapter 25.94 (2)(b), between the “three” line of latitude and the northern boundary of Hancock County.
Apart from trap limits and trawl requirements, lobster fishermen operating in Maine are obliged to adhere to additional regulations, including vessel ownership, seed lobster permits, and trap removal.
Lobster fishers must remain informed about these regulations to guarantee compliance and safeguard the long-term sustainability of Maine’s lobster fishery.
Penalties for Undersized or Oversized Lobsters
Maine has strict rules regarding the size of lobsters that can be caught to ensure the lobster population remains sustainable. Lobsters must be between 3-1/4 inches and 5 inches in carapace length to be legally harvested. If a lobster is smaller or larger, it must be returned to the ocean.
Violating these rules can result in significant penalties. Each violation carries a $500 fine and a $100 fine for the first five lobsters in violation. For every illegal lobster over the first five, there is a $200 fine. If the exact number of illegal lobsters cannot be determined, the penalty ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.
Compliance with these regulations is crucial for maintaining the sustainability of the lobster industry. These rules help to preserve the lobster population, support the livelihoods of countless fishermen, and ensure the overall sustainability of the Maine lobster industry.
Non-Commercial Lobster-Related Activity
Maine has specific regulations governing non-commercial lobstering activities to protect the lobster population. A Non-commercial Lobster license is required for personal consumption fishing.
License holders are allowed a maximum of 5 tags issued to their licensed traps, with no more than 10 tags per vessel. Female lobsters carrying eggs must be immediately released back into the waters, and the removal of eggs can attract a fine of $1000.
Lobsters caught must also meet specific size requirements for their species. Here is a summary of rules applicable to non-commercial lobstering:
- Obtain a non-commercial lobster license.
- Maximum of 5 tags per license holder, no more than 10 tags assigned to a single vessel.
- Adhere to size regulations for lobsters caught.
- Release egg-bearing female lobsters immediately.
- Do not remove eggs from lobsters.
By following these regulations, non-commercial lobster fishers can enjoy their activity while ensuring the preservation and sustainability of Maine’s lobster population. It’s crucial to remember that these rules protect the industry and contribute to maintaining the ecosystem’s health.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Lobsters Are You Allowed to Catch in Maine?
In Maine, lobster catch limits depend on the license type. Commercial fishermen have no limit, while recreational fishermen are restricted to 5 lobsters per day. Both groups must adhere to size and female restrictions.
At What Size Is a Lobster No Longer Legal?
Maine enforces strict regulations to safeguard the lobster population. According to the rules, any lobster caught in Maine must have a carapace measuring at least 3.25 inches and not exceeding 5 inches. Any lobster that falls outside of this size range is considered unlawful to catch and must be immediately released back into the water.
Can Tourists Catch Lobster in Maine?
Tourists in Maine can catch lobsters, but they need a recreational lobster license and must follow catch limits and size requirements. They can catch up to 5 lobsters per person per day while adhering to lobster size regulations.
Can Non-Residents Catch Lobster in Maine?
Non-residents in Maine can catch lobsters with a recreational lobster license. They have the same rules as residents: daily catch limits, size requirements, and no egg-bearing female catch. Get a non-resident recreational lobster license from the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
What Is the Largest Lobster You Can Catch in Maine?
Maine’s legal limit for lobsters is a carapace measuring five inches or less. Larger lobsters are protected by law for their crucial role in maintaining a healthy population and must be released if caught.
Conclusion: The Dos and Don’ts of Catching Lobsters in Maine
Maine’s lobster industry is vital. To ensure its sustainability, Maine has implemented lobster laws. Fishermen should follow size limits (3 ¼ to 5 inches) and gear regulations that protect marine life. Keep up to date with regulatory changes and news affecting the lobster industry. By following these principles, fishermen can enjoy a thriving lobster industry while preserving Maine’s marine ecosystem.
To summarize, here are the key things to do and avoid when fishing for lobsters in Maine:
- Do catch lobsters within the legal size range (3 ¼ to 5 inches).
- Don’t harvest juvenile or oversized lobsters.
- Do comply with gear regulations and conservation measures.
Don’t overlook regulatory changes and news affecting the lobster industry.