Federal regulators are considering potential changes to the way lobster fishing is monitored.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking public comment on a recommendation to require all federal lobster permit holders to report on catches for each fishing trip. It’s also looking at expanding its own offshore sampling program.

NOAA is looking for more data to inform its regulation of the fishery. About 20 percent of the 5,000 lobstermen in Maine hold federal licenses.

Currently, Maine lobster boat captains who fish in offshore federal waters don’t have to file vessel trip reports, even though most other federal licenses require them. Regulators at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission find this reporting gap especially troublesome as the lobster fishery continues to move offshore into waters that remain relatively unexplored by lobster biologists who assess the health of the stock.

NOAA is collecting comments on its proposal until July 16. Any changes would be implemented through a separate rulemaking process.


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