March 23, 2017 — Bay State lobstermen fear that a new proposal — meant to save lobsters in warming southern New England waters — could hurt business by barring them from harvesting in prime summer months and putting tighter restrictions on the size of their catch.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will present a plan in New Bedford tonight on ways to maintain or increase the number of lobsters in waters from southern Massachusetts to Delaware.
“Over the last 15 years we’ve seen a decline in lobster abundance, and we think that’s by and large a response to warming ocean temperatures,” said Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
“That’s the challenge that we have — it’s trying to preserve lobster but doing it in a way that the industry can survive,” he added.
Yet Massachusetts lobstermen argue that their pots are full and don’t see what the fuss is all about.
“Southern New England as a whole is not doing very well, but where we are, it’s doing pretty well,” said lobsterman Jarrett Drake, who has lobstered out of New Bedford for more than 30 years.
The plan ropes in Massachusetts waters south of Cape Cod in with states like Rhode Island and as far away as New Jersey, where lobster populations are extremely low. It considers banning lobstering from July to September — peak tourist months for restaurants — as well as new restrictions on the size of lobsters fishermen can keep, and how long their traps can stay in the water.