Maine is facing a shortage of fishing licenses to help it combat the spread of invasive species, and lawmakers are now considering legislation to ease the burden on the state.
Under the Maine Coastal Protection Act, a statewide license plate will be required for each fishing boat that enters the state, but it will not be required if fishing is not an activity that is carried out in the state’s waters.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection said the bill is a compromise between the state and the fishermen who want a license plate that is easily identifiable and does not appear to be being used in a commercial way.
The agency’s licensing division issued more than 6,000 fishing licenses last year, and about 400 of them are currently being used by anglers in the Maine area.
“We need to have a number of different types of license plates in the marketplace to make sure that it’s safe and that we’re not infringing on anyone else’s rights,” said Brian Anderson, a fisherman in the Eastern Shore area of the state who said he has been using his Maine license plate for several years.
The bill would also allow for the plate to be personalized.
A spokesperson for the Maine Department for Environmental Protection declined to comment.
The state’s attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said the state would seek a court injunction to block the bill.
Mills also said the bureau’s proposal would allow Maine residents to purchase a fishing license for a nominal fee.
She said the fee is needed to pay for the bureau to hire additional staff to enforce the state license plate.MILLS said she was disappointed that the bill would be enacted without any public input.
“I’m concerned about the public’s right to know what the future holds for the state of Maine,” she said.
“I’m worried that the new regulations will not allow the public to make informed decisions about what to do with their license plates.”
A bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Clifton, passed the state House on Friday.
The bill would create a state department to manage the license plate program.
The Maine Department is also expected to propose the bill’s next steps, including a draft regulation that could be voted on later this year.
Mitt Romney, who is running for president, said he is hopeful the bill will pass and urged the federal government to do more to support fishing.
“This is a state issue, and we need to do something about it,” he said in a statement.
“If we’re going to make it safe and secure for our fishing, then we need some enforcement to protect Maine’s waters.”