New lobster management rules would devastate industry here
To the Editor:
This is a letter I have sent to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Lobster Management Board, in Alexandria, Virginia:
The lobstermen of Martha's Vineyard have great concerns about new lobster management proposals to be presented at your meeting on March 21, 2011.
A seasonal closure during the months of June, July, August, and September would devastate our businesses. That closure would essentially end our lobster fishing businesses and would push all of us off the water and have us join the ranks of the unemployed.
The summer season is our season. The tourists fill the restaurants and fish markets of our Island during those months. Our lobsters bring a premium price mid-summer, as our patrons love the Living Local movement and want to eat locally produced food. Our Island residents would be eating imported lobster, product brought in from Maine. This is very bad for our Island economy.
Our lobstermen could support other conservation measures to reduce fishing effort in our area. A size limit of 3-1/2 inches for small lobsters and a size limit of 5-1/4 inches for large would be acceptable. We could also consider a winter closure for the months of January, February, and March.
Your committee is considering new rules for the very large area designated as Southern New England. This area extends from Virginia to Cape Cod. It is too large an area for one-size-fits-all. Our lobster stock south of Martha's Vineyard in water 80-feet to 150-feet deep is very different from the stock off New Jersey or Delaware, and we need to recognize this and create conservation measures adjusted for area differences.
In our waters, we see an increase in small lobsters. Our pots have had more "shorts" in them for the past few years, and we see our lobster stock increasing at this time. The Vineyard lobstermen, as a whole, fish in a lot of different places. We fish Vineyard Sound, Gay Head, in the mud southwest of Gay Head, Nomans Land and Coxes Ledge. Many lobstermen fish that area. Two have told us that last summer they saw an increase in shorts. Even our shellfish constable told us he was catching shorts in his crab traps in Menemsha Pond.
Martha's Vineyard fishermen have been following strict conservation measures for the past ten years. Our fishery is on the upswing. Draconian measures may be needed in other states, but not here.
We have been working on Martha's Vineyard for the past ten years to find creative ways to support independent, owner-operated commercial fishing vessels as an essential part of our fishing fleet and our economy. Encouraging lobster boats is a big part of that effort. Don't hit us with a summer closure that destroys all of our efforts to keep our commercial fishery alive.
Warren M. Doty
Martha's Vineyard/Dukes County