Alice Mayberry, left, and Sue Kelley started their business, Coastal Maine Reporting, to help fishermen comply with new regulations requiring them to electronically file landings reports. Many Maine lobstermen are struggling with the change and could lose their licenses if their reports are not up to date. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Alice Mayberry and Sue Kelley spend most of their days talking to lobstermen about what they’ve hauled in. Mayberry is riffling through paper logs. Kelley is texting until 9 p.m.

Then, they both log onto the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ database and plug in what the lobstermen did for the day.

Over the last several years, state and federal regulators started requiring more fishermen to report what they caught, and where. A few years ago, only a portion of harvesters needed to submit that information, and it could be sent in on a piece of paper.

Now, all fishermen who harvest 15 species of fish – pogies, scallops, lobster, halibut, mussels, eels and others – have to file their landings, and most must do so electronically.

Fishermen in Maine are gradually learning what they’re supposed to do. For lobstermen, adjusting has been particularly hard.

Regulators used to require a random 10% of lobstermen to report their landings. The weight and value of lobster hauled from local waters were measured and reported primarily by the dealers who first purchased the fish.


In the last year, all 5,372 of Maine’s lobstermen have had to submit daily data at least once a month, online. The requirement, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2023, is designed to help regulators determine how to best manage the species.

But many lobstermen are falling behind. According to the DMR, 1,685 have “incomplete reports.”

And their careers are on the line.

Lobstermen need to be up to date on their landings reports when they go to renew their licenses each year. If they don’t renew them within a year, they lose legal access to the water.

“Some fishermen failed to submit all data required in the reports, and some licensed harvesters who were not fishing did not submit reports. If they have a license, they are still required to submit reports whether or not they fished,” DMR spokesperson Jeff Nichols said. “Any new requirement involves a learning curve.”

Nichols could not say by press time how many people have not renewed their licenses because they are behind on their reports.



Mayberry and Kelley witnessed the struggle manifest in real time as former DMR employees in the Landings Program. That’s why they left the agency and started their business, Coastal Maine Reporting, to help lobstermen do the filing. Right now, they’re doing the work for 115 lobstermen who were having trouble keeping up.

The women said they fear many others don’t realize their licenses are in jeopardy.

“That pains me – I lose sleep at night over that. My brain can’t even wrap my head around it, it’s so devastating,” Mayberry said. “But the best thing we can do is to educate them and make sure that they know that those are the ramifications if they don’t file the reports.”

Maine was the last state with a lobster fishery to adopt the federal mandate boosting reporting requirements.

Henry MacVane, of Long Island, on his boat, One More, after a day of scallop fishing on Tuesday. McVane, who is also a lobsterman, said he is worried that new reporting requirements will force him to give up competitive information about where and how he fishes. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

When a small, random selection of lobstermen were previously required to file on paper, they answered 15 questions. The online system requires them to keep track of more details.


They include precisely where they fished, how many traps they hauled, how long the traps were untouched in the water, how many buoys and endlines they used, and how many crew members were aboard.

If they aren’t fishing, they still need to report that there was no activity each day.

Some lobstermen file all of their landings reports on the monthly deadline. Some file reports after each trip to keep better track. And some aren’t keeping up at all.


In an ordinary winter, Bill Coppersmith is lobstering on his boat Bill & Andy out of Portland. But Coppersmith, who has been a lobsterman for 43 years, hasn’t fished at all this season.

That’s because he’s behind on his reports by at least three months and hasn’t been able to renew his license. Alongside resentment about the government “tracking” him, Coppersmith feels the reporting process is too confusing and time-consuming.


“I just threw my hands up in frustration,” Coppersmith said. “I’m 67 years old, and I can barely run the new radios in the trucks. What’s supposed to take a few minutes or half an hour for some people could take four hours – you still don’t get it right.”

Ian Sharkey and Bob Johnson, both of Long Island, carry buckets of scallops after a day of fishing on the boat One More on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

He plans to get back on track within the next 30 days. He needs to clear the docket and renew his license in time for the height of lobstering season, which gets going in May. But he’s nervous that the process is too complicated.

“What if it doesn’t take it?” Coppersmith said of the electronic system. “Then I don’t know what to do.”

And if he doesn’t get it sorted by the end of the year?

“I would have to go through the apprentice program and apply for a new license,” Coppersmith said. “At 67 years old, I’m not going to have the ability to do that.”

Mayberry and Kelley say some lobstermen are defiant and may not want to follow another federal rule.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have mapped out a series of measures intended to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale and preserve the lobster stock – which officials say is the only way for the lobstering industry to remain sustainable.

Those contested regulations include new gear-marking mandates, a reduction in the number of vertical lines in the water, the insertion of weak points in rope, a seasonal closure of a nearly 1,000-square-mile area in the Gulf of Maine, and limits on the size of lobsters that can be legally harvested.

Lobstermen, who fear that they will also have to invest in ropeless gear in the coming years, have fought the changes tooth and nail.


Henry MacVane, a lobsterman fishing off Long Island, does what he can to keep up with the landings. At 33 years old, he can get by. But it’s hard to be precise at the end of the day – and he said he’s been reprimanded when the information he filed has conflicted with dealer reports.

“How am I supposed to remember that? We go six days a week. We’re tired when we get home and you set your (sales) slip aside, you’re trying not to foul it up,” MacVane said while stepping off his boat on the Portland Pier, just finishing up a day of scalloping.


Most of all, though, MacVane feels like the government is overstepping by tracking such specific information about how he fishes.

“They already know what we catch because the dealers report it every day,” he said. “The biggest thing I’m worried about is they want our location, the way we’re fishing, and that seems to be a violation of our rights.”

Henry MacVane, of Long Island, on his boat, One More, after a day of scallop fishing on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Some lobstermen are banking on power in numbers, hoping that if enough of them resist the rules, maybe regulators will grow tired of enforcing them. But there’s no possibility for compromise.

The state cannot budge because federal regulators won’t. In a letter to the lobstering community at the start of 2023, Commissioner Patrick Keliher said the DMR’s hands are tied because of a mandate from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

“Maine does not have a choice about implementing 100% electronic harvester reporting. … I know that many of you would prefer if this change wasn’t happening,” Keliher wrote. “All of this is vital to understanding the real footprint of the fishery, to make sure that if and when future management measures are developed, they can be targeted appropriately.”

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission says that gathering the precise locations and times of where and when lobstermen fish helps scientists understand “the activity of the lobster” and “what level of effort is required to harvest them,” and can also aid North Atlantic right whale research.



Lobstermen made fewer trips than the average and hauled in a 15-year record-low catch in 2023. Keliher and members of the lobstering community say that, amid the growing number of regulations and higher costs of operation, many lobstermen believed the payoff wasn’t worth the work.

Coppersmith was one of the lobstermen who slowed down last season. And he wouldn’t be surprised if the 2024 statewide landings report comes in with another historic low.

“When they come up with a regulation in any other type of industry, if it increases the cost of doing business, it’s passed on to the consumer. We can’t go up on the price the dealer will pay us; we can’t adjust based on the work we’re doing,” he said. “But now, you’re not making as big of an effort. It’s really quite depressing, to be honest.”

Nichols, the DMR spokesperson, says the agency has brought on more staff to field calls, offer one-on-one training and hold informational sessions for fishermen still adapting to the electronic reporting.

And then there are businesses like Coastal Maine Reporting, which charges each lobsterman an average of $55 a month to file the federal and state reports.


The fishermen who Mayberry and Kelley work with can scan paper logs to send over email, call the women up to read out their stats or send them texts with their daily roundups.

Coppersmith said he would consider working with a business like Coastal Maine Reporting. But he worries that’s yet another expense that makes fishing less worth the effort.

Ian Sharkey, of Long Island, carries buckets of scallops after a day of fishing on the boat One More on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In a sign of the times, Ian Sharkey, a sternman on MacVane’s boat, was pleased to say he’s not a captain.

“I don’t have to do anything – I just work,” Sharkey laughed. No record-keeping required.

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