HARPSWELL — A bill signed into law last week will help lobster and crab fishermen with terminal or serious illnesses maintain their license and continue to bring in income.

The law, proposed in a bill by Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, allows family members of a terminally ill lobsterman to fish using his or her license.

“Major illnesses and terminal conditions can hit any of us at any time, regardless of age,” McCreight said in a statement. “This law will allow lobstermen in this situation to stay productive and self-sufficient, take care of their day-to-day expenses and achieve some peace of mind.”

The law allows lobstermen who get a temporary medical waiver to fish on the days they feel well enough, and designate a family member to step in on days when they do not.

The bill has been in the works for more than two years, since the day a lobsterman suffering from terminal cancer approached McCreight saying his income was taking a hit, McCreight said in 2017.

“He’s healthy enough to fish some of the time, but not all of the time,” she said at the time. “He doesn’t want to stop fishing, and can’t afford to stop fishing. But he’s not able to do it full time, partly because of the illness and partly because of the treatment.”

The current system allows someone else to fish on their license for two weeks if the lobsterman is undergoing surgery or some other crisis, she said. Another, one-year waiver that she called “an end of life waiver,” allows others to fish on their license “as you’re getting your affairs in order.”

Neither waiver “was going to be helpful” to the Harpswell lobsterman who contacted her, she said at the time. The current allowance has a one-year limit, which made it a poor fit for the lobsterman.

Only one additional person is allowed on the license, either a spouse, domestic partner or child, which is in line with the current Temporary Medical Allowance.

The proposal is meant to fill a gap between short-term medical waivers and those who can still work, but only on a limited basis, she said.

“It’s all about trying to continue to be self-sufficient,” McCreight said.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at [email protected].

Lobstermen unload their catch on a chilly October afternoon at Pott’s Harbor in Harpswell in this 2016 photo.

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