The Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association (GMFA) has produced a new fishery management plan for the “Gray Zone,” the disputed triangular area between Grand Manan and the Maine coast.
“We’d really like it to be a joint management plan with Maine fishermen,” says GMFA project manager Melanie Sonnenberg. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
Cutler fisherman John Drouin, who chairs the Maine Lobster Management Zone A Council, says that Maine fishermen put forward a management plan several years back and that they’re still waiting for a response from GMFA. “We had a plan on the table, and we had questions on the table, and they never responded. We don’t see any sense in talking about a plan that we haven’t seen yet when our plan is still out there.”
Sonnenberg noted that the GMFA plan was under review by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and that the document wouldn’t be distributed until Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn had signed off on it.
Sonnenberg did talk about some of the features of the new plan, however, not the least of which is the addition of new species to what has been a lobster management plan — scallops, sea urchins and crabs.
The two sides disagree on how conserve and sustain lobster stocks.
Drouin said that Canadian unwillingness to set a maximum carapace size as well as only tossing back one-clawed females is unacceptable. “This has nothing to do with breeding,” he says. “The female is too busy trying to grow back that claw.”
Sonnenberg counters that the GMFA plan sets more stringent limits on gear, and points to the requirement that single lobster licenses are limited to 375 traps; partnership lobster licenses are limited to 563 traps. She also cites an at-sea and dockside vessel monitoring program, including aerial surveillance.
But Sonnenberg says that they’re not trying to tell Mainers how to fish, insisting that the idea is for Canadian fishermen to demonstrate concern over the welfare of the stocks.
Drouin concedes, “They do fish differently than we do, but I think our record in conserving lobster stocks here speaks for itself.”
Sonnenberg says, “We’ve been fishing there for 30 years, and we’re very comfortable with upswing in catches. We must be doing something right. We have to maintain our presence there. We were shoved out, so we need to take back what is ours.”
Drouin says, “We’ve been fishing there for half a century This is all we have.” But he says he doesn’t anticipate any problems with the Canadian fishermen. “After all, we’re all trying to make a buck.”
Sonnenberg concludes, “I think where we are is that we’re agreeing to disagree and to respect each other. It’s okay to be different, but our goals are the same. We need to work cooperatively, though. We both fish there and it’s time to face facts.”