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Maine lobstermen sue the state over electronic boat tracking rules

A lobsterman sorts through a bait barrel while fishing in Portland Harbor, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in Portland, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
A lobsterman sorts through a bait barrel while fishing in Portland Harbor, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in Portland, Maine.

Five lobstermen are suing the Maine Department of Marine Resources in an effort to stop new electronic boat monitoring requirements.

Under new rules that went into effect last month, lobstermen with federal fishing permits must install monitors on their boats that track their location each minute.

Attorney Thimi Mina said the lobstermen believe that the tracking is a violation of their constitutional right to privacy, equal protection and due process.

"They're an important part of their lives, and they use these vessels for purposes other than commercial lobstering, including other commercial ventures, personal use, family use and recreational use," Mina said.

The lobstermen are seeking emergency injunctive relief from a federal judge in Maine.

The Maine DMR declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Though the state promulgated these rules, the policy to begin monitoring comes from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission is seeking more data from multiple states about fishing trends and potential interactions with critically endangered right whales and other species.

But fishermen have said they're worried about how the data may be used.

"And then the question is once they've got all this information, it's a treasure trove. What's going to become of it? How's it going to be protected? Where's it going to end up?" Mina said.

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