Bill could let state use covert electronic surveillance equipment on lobster boats
AUGUSTA (WGME) -- The state could be able to use electronic surveillance on lobster boats, if a bill passes in Augusta.
The bill that's being submitted by the Maine Department of Marine Resources would require lobstermen to agree to electronic surveillance as a condition of getting their lobster licenses.
It wouldn't necessarily mean surveillance would be on every boat.
If a law enforcement official believes a lobsterman is violating any laws or rules, like fishing over the trap limit, they would take their evidence to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
If there is probable cause, the department could use covert electronic surveillance equipment to record that boat's movements, according to the bill.
Besides catching lobstermen cheating the system, it could also be a way for marine patrol officers to monitor lobstermen who could be destroying other lobstermen's gear or losing their own.
The man behind the proposed law says it's important to catch cheaters in the fishing industry, while critics say it's unconstitutional.
"They're looking for people who are fishing, could be a couple hundred additional traps that are not tagged, don't have any ownership identification on them and so they're fishing, they're catching more than their share if you will,” Rep. Walter A. Kumiega III said.
"They treat lobstermen as though they are a lawless group of people, when these are people that are providing the economic foundation of our entire state. Family fishermen in business for generations, the backbone of our entire state, our economy, our way of life and it's really shameful that this would be being proposed at all,” Kim Irvin Tucker, attorney, said.
If the bill passed and someone violated it, their punishment could be to have their fishing license suspended following conviction.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct a factual error.