Maine laws prevent lobsters from being overfished. Rules apply to both commercial fishermen and individuals. All lobster fishermen need a valid permit before setting traps and must make sure they are setting traps in their specific zone.
Lobster License Categories and Classes
Non-commercial licenses cost $65 plus 50 cents for each trap tag, as of this publication. There is a limit of five traps per non-commercial license. Commercial lobster licenses require yearly registration fees of $65 to $501. Seniors receive approximately 50 percent discount for commercial licenses. If you are not a resident of Maine, a non-resident license increases to $840. Maine commercial lobster licenses come in three commercial classes: Class I licenses allows one person, without any help, to trap lobsters. Class II allows one person plus one unlicensed helper to trap lobsters. Class III allows one person plus two unlicensed helpers to trap lobsters. Lobster fishermen holding a license can sponsor an apprentice using the student licensing program.
Choosing Your Fishing Zone
A Maine lobster license requires you to state where you will set your lobster traps. Once you have designated this area, you cannot change it. Letters from the alphabet designate the different zones along Maine's coast. Letter "A" covers the coastline farthest north and the southern coast is letter "G." Non-commercial lobster fishing applications include the map on the application for your convenience, however, commercial applications do not. The Maine Department of Marine Resources also has maps available.
Requirements on Lobster Size and Sex
Providing you follow the rules regarding how many lobster traps you're allowed to set, you keep all legally sized lobsters. Make sure you understand how many lobsters your license allows you to catch and keep. A lobster's body shell must be at least 3 1/4 inches and no more than 5 inches long. Make this measurement from the back of the eye to the end of the carapace. If the lobster is too large or too small, you must return it to the ocean immediately. Penalties for having illegal lobsters start at $500 for the violation plus up to $200 per lobster as of this publication. You cannot take egg-bearing females. Keeping a female lobster with eggs under her tail leads to fines of $1,000 for the violation and up to $400 per lobster. Lobstermen must notch the tails of egg-bearing females before releasing them. This notch is made in the second flipper from the right on the end of the tail. Use a sharp knife to make a 1/4-inch notch in her tail before releasing her.
Rules for Members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe
Members of the Passamaquoddy tribe are exempt from Maine laws. Under bylaw 6302-A, tribe members may trap lobsters without a permit. The tribal elders often issue their own trap tags eliminating the need for tags issued by the state. If tribal tags are not available, tribe members must apply for trap tags through the State of Maine.
- Maine Department of Marine Resources: A Guide to Lobstering in Maine
- Maine Department of Marine Resources: Lobster and Crab Harvesting Commercial License Application
- Maine Department of Marine Resources; Shellfish Laws and Regulations; Norman Olsen; April 2011
- Maine Department of Marine Resources: Lobster and Crab Harvesting Non-Commercial License Application
- Maine Department of Marine Resources: Lobster and Crab Harvesting Non-Resident Commercial License Application
- Maine Legislature: Maine Revised Statutes
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