Lobsterman charged with fishing violations
Friday, September 15th 2017
A Lamoine-based lobsterman has been charged with fishing violations under a tough new fishing law that could result in substantial penalties.
William Haas, 55, was charged by the Maine Marine Patrol with fishing more lobster traps than authorized, fishing untagged gear and fishing more traps on a trawl than allowed. Because of a recent law change, Haas faces a suspension of his license of between three and ten years for fishing 44 more traps than the 800 allowed by law.
The law changed the penalty for fishing over the trap limit from a possible one-year suspension to a mandatory minimum three-year suspension with the possibility of a ten-year suspension.
“The law change this past legislative session puts teeth in the penalties,” said Maine Department of Marine Resource Commissioner Patrick Keliher. Penalties were also stiffened for trap molesting, fishing sunken trawls, scrubbing eggs, and arson, or other means of destroying another lobsterman’s vessel. “These changes were initiated and supported by the lobster industry. Industry members made it clear that the few cheaters who fish more than they are allowed by law must be penalized in a way that creates a significant deterrent for others. I strongly believe that these new penalties will discourage these behaviors.”
The investigation that led to the charges stemmed from a routine patrol in which Marine Patrol personnel hauled and checked a sample of Haas’ gear. Haas fishes in Maine Lobster Zone B, which stretches between Schoodic Point and Newbury Neck. The patrol, conducted earlier in the month, revealed that Haas was fishing traps that did not include required tags that identify the harvester. Based on the findings, Marine Patrol conducted a targeted investigation.
Fishing more than 25 untagged traps is, under the new law, a Class D criminal violation which, in addition to the mandatory suspension, carries the possibility of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Haas was also charged with violating a regulation that restricts the number of traps on a string, known as a trawl, to three. The penalty for violating this regulation is $100 per violation.
Commissioner Keliher is also authorized under the new law to require Haas to use a Vessel Monitoring System for a length of time equal to his license suspension after he re-enters the fishery. If the system is used it will allow Marine Patrol to monitor Haas’ geographic location while fishing. In addition, the law allows the Commissioner to limit Haas to only 300 traps when he reenters the fishery, and permits him to add 100 traps per year until he reaches his zone limit of 800 traps.