Credit: George Danby / BDN

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Marge Kilkelly of Dresden is a former member of Maine House and Senate.

In 1872, 150 years ago, when my great, great grandfather Martin Brewer was fishing out of Boothbay Harbor, the Maine Legislature passed the first law banning taking of egg-bearing female lobster, a conservation measure already practiced by many Maine lobstermen at the time. A short two years later Maine passed the first laws regulating the minimum size of lobster. The first minimum size was 10 ½ inches overall size. This doomed the canners who basically went out of business by 1885.

Over and over again, the state of Maine and the lobstering industry have stepped up to the plate to sustain the lobstering industry.

In 1917, additional protection of egg-bearing female lobsters began when Maine passed a law allowing the wardens to purchase lobsters that had extruded eggs, mark them with a round hole and release them. Later, in 1948, the law was changed so that fishermen marked female, egg-bearing lobsters with a V-shaped notch in the tail rather than a round hole and released them, assuring they would never be harvested.

The 1950s saw the development of co-ops, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and in 1987 the Lobster Institute was formed by industry associations in partnership with the University of Maine to focus on communications, outreach, research and educational programming.

Maine has not only been a good steward of the lobster resource but a leader in North Atlantic right whale conservation efforts, even though the Maine lobster fishery has not been definitively linked to the entanglement of a right whale in almost 20 years.

Maine fishermen removed floating rope at the surface in 1997, and in 2009 replaced 27,000 miles of floating line with whale-safe sinking line.

Additional changes have included increasing the number of traps per buoy to reduce the number of vertical lines in the water and converting all gear to weak links/weak rope, making harm from entanglement less likely.

One hundred and 50 years of hard work and tough, costly decisions by lawmakers and the lobster fishing industry have resulted in a fishery that contributes over $1 billion and supports over 4,000 jobs in the economy of Maine, while working to reduce any danger to right whales.

The Maine lobster industry has done all they have been regulated to do. Maybe if Seafood Watch had looked at all the history and facts they might have determined that Maine was the model of sustainability and conservation, not the problem.

In the end, targeting and penalizing the 4,500 lobstermen and women and the thousands of other small businesses in Maine benefitting from the lobster fishery will hurt those businesses, families, communities and the economy of Maine but likely not improve the outlook for the North Atlantic right whale.

I will proudly continue to buy Maine lobster and crabs and post pictures on social media ( #redmainelobster4me) while telling the story of a successful fishery that knows the meaning of sustainability and conservation.