Resource support

Lawmakers must decide on lobster support and legal defense funds

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A key Maine legislative committee is set to consider a pair of proposals to help the lobster industry deal with new fishing restrictions.

One plan would create a $30 million fund to help fishermen adjust to new rules, which aim to protect a rare type of whale. The other would create a legal defense fund to help the lobster industry navigate new rules, laws and regulations.

Both proposals face potential votes before the Maine Legislative Marine Resources Committee on Tuesday.

The whales number less than 340 and are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear. They are also at risk of collisions with large vessels. Their populations have declined in recent years and they have also suffered from poor breeding.

The legal defense fund proposal says it would be funded by money from license surcharges and the sale of lobster trap tags. Some industry members have balked at the idea in part because these fees are currently being used for other purposes.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association, however, backed the proposed $30 million fund to help fishermen. This money could be used for necessities such as paying for boats at a time when the industry is facing financial difficulties.