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Maine lobstermen say electronic trackers required by federal regulators violate privacy

In this Aug. 24, 2019, file photo, Adam Daggett stands lookout on the bow as his father, John Daggett, pilots their boat at Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
In this Aug. 24, 2019, file photo, Adam Daggett stands lookout on the bow as his father, John Daggett, pilots their boat at Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Some Maine lobstermen say that new electronic monitoring requirements are violating their constitutional right to privacy.

As of Dec. 15, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission requires that lobstermen with federal permits install a monitor tracking their boat's location each minute that it's moving.

But the Sustainable Maine Fishing Foundation — a nonprofit arm of the Maine Lobstering Union — is now asking the state to delay the requirements until the next fishing season. The foundation outlined its concerns in a letter sent to the Maine Department of Marine Resources earlier this month.

The lobstering union's director, Virginia Olsen, said the minute-by-minute tracking is a violation of lobstermen's privacy, as many of them use their boats for purposes other than fishing.

"And those one minute pings really feel like a warrantless tracking, a GPS without a warrant," Olsen said.

Olsen said that many are also concerned that the data from the devices could surface in a public forum, potentially disclosing locations and trade secrets of many fishermen.

"If the department needs that information for some reason, then they should be able to request that from the fishermen," she said. "It shouldn't be an open access dashboard to the department without having any control over it. From the fishermen."

Regulators have said the monitoring data are needed to better understand fishing patterns and interactions with right whales and other species.

A spokesperson for the Maine Department of Marine Resources said that Commissioner Patrick Keliher has yet to receive the letter, and would not comment until he reviews it.