FRIENDSHIP, Maine — A lobsterman who had his commercial fishing licenses suspended for two years in February faces an additional year loss because of new charges.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources said James Simmons, 40, of Friendship has been charged with engaging in licensed activities while under suspension and violating conditions of release from jail.
Simmons also is awaiting trial on an arson charge in which he is accused of burning down a boat shop that housed a lobster boat in Waldoboro in June 2012.
Simmons’ February license suspension stemmed from a Marine Patrol investigation started in the summer of 2014, which found he was fishing strings of lobster traps without a buoy to mark their location near Matinicus Island. A buoy is required by law to identify the owner of the traps and to allow Marine Patrol to haul and inspect the gear.
In October 2014, Marine Patrol officers on three Marine Patrol vessels were able to locate and retrieve more than 150 traps not marked with a buoy. Another four traps hauled as part of the investigation did not have tags.
Simmons was charged with fishing untagged traps, a civil offense with a possible fine of $2,250. He also was charged with using an illegal method of fishing for not having buoys attached to his trawls, which carries a possible fine of up to $5,000. In addition, he was charged with fishing with illegal gear for using the floating rope to connect traps, which violates a Maine regulation designed to protect whales from becoming entangled in lobster gear. The penalty for violation of this regulation could total $250.
As a result of the 2014 investigation, Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher suspended all of Simmons’ fishing licenses, including his lobster license, as well as his right to obtain any licenses issued by the department, for two years starting Feb. 9. Simmons also held a commercial fishing license and a shrimp license.
In March, Simmons was again charged by the marine patrol, accused of engaging in licensed activities while under the February suspension, a crime with the possibility of a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The charge was the result of an investigation that revealed he was allegedly paying another harvester to haul and sell his lobsters.
“James Simmons has established a longstanding pattern of disregard for Maine’s laws including those that protect our valuable marine resources,” said Keliher. “I want to commend the work of the Maine Marine Patrol. Their diligence has resulted in his removal from the fishery and the possibility of serious penalties that reflect the damage one person can cause to a sustainable fishery and the law abiding people who rely on it for a living.”