Stimulus Fund Update
posted at 9:24 pm on April 15, 2009 by Slublog
How are your tax dollars being spent in Maine?
Retrieving lost lobster traps. Yes, really.
Fishermen and lobster industry regulators have accepted such gear loss, but the slow accumulation of lost traps on the bottom has attracted the interest of officials because of the potential impact the traps could have on underwater habitat. Though lost, traps can continue to catch lobsters that eventually die because they cannot get back out.
To deal with the problem, the State Planning Office is proposing to use federal stimulus money to pay for a $2.3 million, 18-month project that would retrieve some of these lost traps from the ocean depths. The federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to announce next month whether it will fund the project, which would run from May of this year through October 2010.
State officials say they do not know how many lost traps are in Maine waters but they do know how many replacement tags they issue each year. Each year lobstermen in Maine are allowed to buy up to 800 tags apiece, which they then fasten to their traps to identify themselves as the owner of the gear.
Carl Wilson, chief lobster scientist for the Department of Marine Resources, said Tuesday that to make up for lost traps, the department allows fishermen to replace 10 percent of the number of tags they buy each year. DMR sells about 3.2 million trap tags annually, he said, so with that 10 percent replacement figure, it could be estimated that 320,000 traps are lost every 12 months. Over a few years, that quickly would add up to millions of traps littering the ocean bottom.
The federal government: stimulating the economy one rescued sea-cockroach at a time.