AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Dozens of Maine lobstermen took their fight to Augusta on Wednesday, in the ongoing debate over allowing fishing trawlers also catch lobsters.
Members of the new Maine Lobstering Union were navigating the halls of the Statehouse to lobby legislators on the controversial issue.
A bill about to be debated on the Legislature would repeal the current law that makes it illegal for a licensed Maine fisherman to catch lobsters by dragging nets.
Under the new law, those fishermen would still not be allowed to land the lobsters in Maine, but would no longer have to worry about fines if they take the lobsters to Massachusetts.
The lobstermen say even that small change would be a threat to their industry. They say dragging for lobsters damages the lobster resource, particularly the large lobster "brook stock" they believe lives in the deeper waters where the draggers are allowed to fish.
The groundfishermen who own and operate the draggers say the lobsters are "bycatch", caught by accident while they drag for fish. They are allowed by federal law to land 500 lobsters in Massachusetts.
Maine's few remaining groundfishermen want to be allowed to land those lobsters in Maine, but the Legislature has already rejected a bill to do that.
The lobstermen say any dragging for lobsters is harmful, and threatens their industry. Wednesday's rally at the Legislature was also part of a show of strength for the new union, which wants to convince more lobstermen to join.