AUGUSTA, Maine — If the Maine legislature follows the recommendation of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW), it will not ban the use of soft plastic baits in state waters. Last winter, a bill was introduced to do just that, but public outcry was so loud and so vocal that the legislature chose to authorize a study instead of taking an immediate vote.
In presenting its findings about the impact of plastics on Maine fisheries, the agency said this:
“Requiring the sale and use of only biodegradable SPLs (soft plastic baits) is not currently a solution. There is currently no standard national or international definition for what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic’ and SPLs specifically.
“Based on the information presented in this report, the Department does not recommend legislation at this time.”
In response to the decision, Gordon Robertson of the American Sportfishing Association said, “We are pleased with the department’s recommendation of no legislative action and with many of the recommendations to enhance angler education about soft baits and the proper use and disposal of all baits.
“Knowing the science of the actual impacts of the use of soft baits, the department’s decision was the correct one … and we stand ready to work with the department along with anglers and angler groups to reduce the loss of soft plastic baits used in recreational fishing.”
IFW recommended a public education campaign that would, among other actions, “actively support and participate in the development of public information and education materials to provide for increased public awareness of the potential impact of SPLs on freshwater environments and fish species.”
It endorsed “rigorous enforcement of state and local laws and regulations pertaining to littering of SPLs in freshwater environments” and recommended working with the Warden Service “to raise awareness of litter issues caused by discarded SPLs in Maine’s lakes and ponds.”
Additionally, IFW said it “could consider” adding a new tournament permit requirement that would require collection of used baits at tournament sites.
The agency also pointed out that it has an established, standardized process to record occurrences of ingested soft plastics by salmonids. “This is in the form of regional databases that document fish stomach contents during biological and creel surveys.
“The Department will continue to collect fish stomach content data from various waters throughout the state.”
Introduced by Rep. Paul Davis, the controversial bill is entitled “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Rubber Lures for Fishing.”
It reads as follows:
“1. Prohibition. A person may not angle or fish other than by use of the single baited hook and line, artificial flies, artificial lures, except for artificial lures made of rubber, and spinners, except that a person may take smelts in accordance with rules adopted with regard to the taking of smelts.”
IFW’s report is available on its website.