Bill proposes secret spying devices on lobster boats

By Stephen Betts | Apr 18, 2017

Augusta — A bill before the Legislature would allow the state to secretly place electronic surveillance devices on lobster boats to find out if the crew are violating any laws or rules.

The bill -- LD 1379 -- is sponsored by state Rep. Walter Kumiega, III, D-Deer Isle.

"Cheaters in the fishing industry are like a cancer. If they aren't shut down, the bad behavior just spreads. People fishing extra traps are stealing from all the law-abiding fishermen, and that is a big threat to the future of the industry," Kumiega said.

The bill would require lobstermen to consent to electronic surveillance as a condition of receiving their lobster licenses. Kumiega said this is similar to the existing law that makes consent to boarding and inspection by the Marine Patrol a condition of receiving a license.

The Hancock County representative said he believes that judicial review would also be possible after the fact.

"If a judge felt that probable cause didn't warrant the surveillance they could toss the evidence out," he said.

The proposed law would allow officers to covertly place surveillance devices on boats if probable cause is presented to the commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources from the Chief of the Bureau of Marine Patrol. If the commissioner determines the use of covert electronic surveillance is warranted, the commissioner may authorize its use.

A public hearing before the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, April 24.

There were no immediate responses to telephone messages sent to the Maine Lobstermen's Association and its president David Cousens of South Thomaston.

Comments on the Facebook group, "All Things Lobstering" shows mixed reactions to the bill.

Jonesport lobsterman Patrick Beal said that a warrant from a court should be needed before the state can go on your boat to place a device. He said the warrant could be sealed so the suspect would not be alerted.

John Drouin of Cutler posted on the Facebook page that he had no problem with it.

"Why the worry? Play by the rules and no one should have an issue. Far too many fishing more that 800...hauling other people's gear and cutting others off," he stated.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Apr 20, 2017 18:07

Ms. Poutin (posting as James Raye?):

LD 1369 was sponsored by Rep Walter Kumiega, but only because he is co-chair of the Marine Resources Committee - this bill is actually from the Dept of Marine Resources. You can read it at the link below:

Posted by: Nicole Jeanette Boutin | Apr 20, 2017 12:56

I am from the Government, I am here to help...Laughing. State is looking for money so they can start new programs and spend your hard earned money.... Demo sponsored ...go figure....I wonder how long they stayed up to think of this one...stay out of the Lobster fisherman's lives....Maybe cameras in Augusta is warranted. James Raye


Posted by: Mike Kerzee | Apr 20, 2017 05:23

This bill sounds as if it would violate the forth amendment, I quote; " Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause". Giving law enforcement, any kind of law enforcement, unchecked license to invade private property is without question unconstitutional. Instead, if they suspect illegal activity, they most petition the court for a warrant. This is what separates our democracy from communism.

Posted by: Cynthia Mary Anderson | Apr 19, 2017 12:57

This law is another way of invading our privacy.  It is disgusting to think that the  government is coming up with more and more ways to eliminate our rights.  It opens the door to other professions "covertly" having instruments added to their workplace.  We need to start watching "Big Brother."


Posted by: Nina Reed | Apr 19, 2017 07:57

It's far too early in the morning for me to come up with truly intelligent and cohesive statement-so forgive me if I make no sense. Lobsterman-like any other person who has a career and is just trying to make a living-are entitled to the same privacy as anyone else in their workplace. The difference is this-if my employer wanted to install cameras where I work-I would have no say, since I don't own the agency or the building. That said-lobster boats and businesses are privately run and operated and I don't believe that marine fisheries, any politician, or anyone other than those directly involved with that vessel-should be able to force video, audio, or any other monitoring device on the boats. This, to me, is just another way that useless politicians are wasting money and trying to make themselves look good by trying to institute laws that they think people MIGHT want. If we start to violate the privacy of one profession-what's next? -Melanie Keene.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Apr 18, 2017 20:56

Hmmm...maybe the legislature should pass a bill allowing an electronic device be attached to the governor to see when he violates any laws or rules...

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 18, 2017 15:21

It is sad to read about illegal trapping. When over-fishing leads to no more lobster, then what will they do?

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