- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine lawmakers decided on Wednesday to again put off a decision on a request by American Indian tribes to co-manage the state’s lucrative commercial fisheries.

The Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources met to discuss a bill backed by the tribes, and the discussion will likely resume next week, a spokeswoman said. She also said the vote was postponed in part because members of the tribe were not able to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

Passamaquoddy Tribe legislative Rep. Matthew Dana has said his bill, which also came up for discussion last week, would allow for cooperative management of species such as lobsters, clams and elvers. Four tribes say they have fished for the species for thousands of years and they want state regulators to enter into a “memorandum of agreement” about marine resources.

Democratic Rep. Walter Kumiega, a member of the committee, said some lawmakers believe the state could reach an agreement with the tribes without passing a law. The full Legislature would need to pass such a law after it leaves committee. However, Kumiega said he is generally supportive of the idea of co-managing resources with the tribes.

“Only good things come from the two sides coming together. They don’t have to be on opposite sides, and usually aren’t,” Kumiega said. “Our goals are sustainable fisheries.”

The effort from the tribes to have more of a voice in fishery management stems from recent squabbles between tribe members and state regulators over baby eel fishing. The Passamaquoddies and state regulators clashed last year about a state requirement that tribal elver fishermen be subject to individual quotas.

The tribe eventually agreed to the elver quotas. But the two sides have again run afoul of one another this week, with state regulators saying the Passamaquoddy are using gear that could cause the state to exceed its overall elver quota. Attempts to reach Passamaquoddy representatives were not successful.

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