Maine lobsters are harvested the old-fashioned way, with each harvester hauling in 250 to 300 traps a day, one trap at a time. While this process is longer and harder than dragging the sea floor, Maine lobster harvesters are committed to preserving the environment and protecting our valuable natural resources, as they have been for generations.
In Maine, lobster harvesters have followed these conservation practices for years to sustain the lobster fishery and preserve a healthy environment:
- Return to the sea any pregnant lobster (1889).
- Measure each lobster for both minimum and maximum legal size, which protects young, egg-bearing females as well as large, healthy breeders.
- V-notch the tails of “berried,” or egg-carrying, females and return them to the sea, where they continue to reproduce for a few more years until they outgrow the notch and are removed from the ocean (1917).
- Harvest lobsters using only eco-friendly lobster traps (1961).
- Support the “Maine Lobster Seed Fund” (established in 1961), used to purchase and then return to the sea female lobsters that extrude eggs after landing. The fund is also dedicated to research.
- Refrain from removing eggs from any female lobster or possess any female lobster from which eggs have been removed (1979).
- Use traps with escape vents, which enable lobsters under the minimum catchable size to swim back out and grow to legal size (1979).
- Use biodegradable trap panels designed to release lobsters from traps that are “lost” while fishing (1990).
- Establish and observe lobster zones for stringent local management. Zones limit the number of new fishing entrants and reducee the number of traps within specific zones (1996).
- Adhere to individual trap limits in certain areas since 1989. Statewide trap limits established in 1996.
- Follow an apprenticeship program (1999) to promote good stewardship within the industry and ensure Maine’s lobster fishery understands adheres to eco-friendly practices. New lobster harvesters are required to serve an apprenticeship before a license is granted and to enter the fishery with a limited number of traps.
- Utilize traps with trap runners (since 2002) to minimize potential damage to the lobster’s legs and claws.
When lobster was deemed overfished in 2000, industry members were tasked with creating a plan to end overfishing and responded immediately. Lobster conservationists focused on two practices: mandatory v-notching — a painless procedure used to mark the tail flipper of egg-bearing female lobsters, signaling they must be thrown back in the water so they can reproduce — and a zero tolerance policy for the harvesting of v-notched lobsters.
Both aspects of the plan were modeled after some of the methods that have been used by Maine’s lobster industry for years. This plan was adopted in 2002 by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) lobster management board in Addendum III.
Lobster harvesters are committed to a healthy marine environment and to sustaining the valuable lobster resource for generations to come. That’s why they harvest responsibly and proudly say lobster from Maine is eco-friendly!