August 14, 2011

So you want to be a lobsterman

There's a catch. Current rules make it all but impossible for some residents to secure a license, and the industry is divided on how that might change.

By Tom Bell
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Howard Gray, 77, sits in the stern of his lobster boat while his son Charlie is at the helm. The law allows Charlie Gray, an apprentice who is on a long waiting list to get his own lobstering license, to fish on his father's boat as long as his father is aboard. "If I don't come out, he can't come out," says Howard Gray. The Grays have lobbied the Legislature for a change in the rules.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Charlie Gray pilots the boat while his father, Howard, rests on the gunwale as the longtime lobstermen check their traps off the coast of Prouts Neck in Scarborough last week.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

WATCH A SLIDE SHOW of Howard and Charlie Gray at work.

There were nearly 6,000 licensed Maine lobstermen last year, but only 4,300 did any fishing. There were 3 million trap tags, but only 2.6 million traps were in use, according to the Department of Marine Resources.

Past efforts by regulators to restrict fishing by reducing the number of traps mainly resulted in eliminating traps that already were not in use. If fishermen had to pay free-market prices to buy trap tags, they wouldn't buy extra ones, Train says. As a result, regulators, using tag limits, would be more easily able to control the size of the lobster harvest, he says.

Over the past several years, Charlie and Howard Gray have unsuccessfully lobbied the Legislature to change the rules to allow a parent to transfer a license to a son or daughter. They now support Train's idea because it would produce the same result by allowing Charlie to go fishing on his own.

As it stands now, though, if his father gets sick or dies, Charlie would be out of a job, he says.

Unless the rules are changed, he says, his only hope is for his father to stay healthy enough to keep working on the boat or for LePage to grant him an exemption.

"You have to ask the Almighty -- or the governor -- how long I have to go," he says.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Steve Train, a lobsterman out of Long Island, wants the state to give fishing licenses to anyone who graduates from the apprenticeship program. That person would have to buy trap tags – permits for individual traps – from a licensed lobsterman.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Charlie Gray hauls crates of herring aboard his father s lobster boat, which is moored in the Scarborough River off Ferry Beach in Scarborough.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Howard Gray fills a bait bag with herring.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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