New Brunswick

New regulation for Maine fishermen might ease tension in 'grey zone'

A new change to lobster fishing regulations in Maine might ease tension between Canadian and American fishermen in the "grey zone," an area of disputed water near Grand Manan.

Canada, United States claim sovereignty over the 110-square-mile area used for lobster fishing

American lobster fishermen can now check their traps after dark, like their Canadian counterparts. (The Associated Press)

A new change to lobster fishing regulations in Maine might ease tension between Canadian and American fishermen in the "grey zone," an area of disputed water near Grand Manan.

The grey zone is a 110-square-mile area around Machias Seal Island, southwest of Grand Manan. The United States and Canada both claim sovereignty over the water and use the area to fish for lobster.

Melanie Sonnenberg, the general manager of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said there's been some tension between fishermen in the zone because American fishermen are worried Canadian fishermen are stealing lobsters from their traps at night.

Canadian fisherman can check their traps after dark, but American fishermen aren't regulated to do so.

Until now.

New legislation in Maine will now allow American fishermen to check their traps at night.

"Hopefully, with them being allowed through their legislation to come at night, it will ease some of their fears that their traps are being hauled," Sonnenberg said.

"And it will put them on a more even playing field with us, but I really, truly don't believe that the frequency of which they've claimed their traps are being hauled is, in fact, true."

Despite working the same area, Canadian and American fishermen have different regulations for lobster fishing.

  • Canadian fishermen can only use 375 traps on a single licence at a time, compared to 800 used by Americans.
  • American fishermen fish year round, but Canadian fishermen don't fish in their regular district during the summer and early fall as a conservation effort.
  • American fishermen are expected to return lobsters over five inches long, but Canadian fishermen don't have the same regulation.
Lobster fishermen in Maine will now be able to work at night in the waters around Machias Seal Island. That might thaw tensions between fishermen on both sides of the border who set their traps in the grey zone. Melanie Sonnenberg is with the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association. 7:20

But Sonnenberg said she's expecting there will be future discussions of how the fishermen should work together, as they already have close working relations.

"It's a community and they try their best to do what they can to work together to avoid conflict," she said.

She also said the new regulation doesn't affect the Canadian fishermen, but it might ease some tension.

"I don't think we truthfully really gave it much thought, but I think for them it is a big deal and it will hopefully put some of their concerns to rest," she said.

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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