Our History

The Maine Lobstermen's Association (MLA) has played a leading role in shaping the lobster fishery for more than 60 years. Founded in 1954, the MLA works hard to represent our members on lobster issues. We endeavor to balance the economic realities of the industry with the conservation needs of the resource.

A quick re-cap of some of our highlights…

  • 1960s: MLA persuaded politicians that lobster traps are the only gear that should catch lobsters and draggers were kept out.
  • 1970s: MLA convinced Congress to pass a law saving Maine lobstermen thousands of dollars each year by not paying payroll taxes on sternmen.
  • 1980s: MLA fought to keep draggers out of the fishery, again, and convinced managers to accept Maine’s core conservation practices of v-notching, maximum 5”, and minimum 3 ¼” gauges.
  • 1990s: MLA fought to prevent unlimited dragging of lobsters in offshore waters outside of Maine through the 100 per day, 500 per trip limits.
  • 2000s: MLA fought for a stable bait supply by protecting the inshore herring fishery and developing new research to measure the size of the herring stock.
  • 2010s: MLA pushed for an area-based approach to whale rules keeping 70% of Maine waters exempt from the Federal whale rules. MLA continued to fight to keep draggers out of lobster and for smart management of herring and menhaden.
  • 2020s: MLA leads the lobster industry’s effort to save Maine’s lobster fishery and endangered right whales. MLA sued the federal government challenging the draconian 10 year whale plan. MLA asserts the government’s plan relies on arbitrary assumptions and ignores the best available science. MLA is also an intervenor in litigation brought against the federal government by environmental groups seeking more stringent whale protections.


As a celebration of the MLA’s 50th Anniversary in 2004, a booklet highlighting many issues, challenges and personalities that have defined the MLA was printed and distributed to our supporters. Please read our booklet, “MLA: The First 50 Years” here, or call the office to request a copy.

Current Work

The MLA continues to work on a variety of issues, including lobster management (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries CommissionMaine LegislatureDMR Rule-Making), bait (herring at NEFMCherring at ASMFC), habitat (management at NEFMC), deep sea coral management (Coral Amendment at NEFMC), and dredging (Maine Dredging Proposals).

Previous Projects

HeaLth Insurance

The MLA  partnered with Fishing Partnership Support Services (FPSS) from 2013 through 2018 and served as a “Navigator” to help Maine lobstermen and their families understand Affordable Care Act requirements including health insurance options, subsidies and penalties. The MLA remains committed to ensuring that Maine lobstermen have the information they need to make an informed decision when it comes to health insurance enrollment.

The MLA no longer provides Navigator services as of September 1, 2018. If you have questions on the Health Insurance Marketplace please contact a Navigator in your area. You can find one here.  Or window shop for plans here: See Plans & Prices.

Maine Lobster Leadership Institute

2017 Lobster Leadership group

Conducted in 2014 and 2017. This educational opportunity provided young lobstermen an opportunity to learn about the industry as a whole. Workshops and travel were a big piece of the program with trips to the Boston Seafood Show, Prince Edward Island, and aquaculture farms to name a few. For more information about a future Institute, contact the MLA office.



Happy Healthy Lobster Tours

Dr. Jean LaVallee

The MLA has worked with our sister, non-profit organization, the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance (MLCA) on many projects.  In the spring of 2016 and 2017, the MLA and MLCA, along with the Island Institute and the State of Maine, hosted lobster veterinarian Dr. Jean Lavellee as he traveled the coast talking about lobster quality. The Happy Healthy Lobster Tour returned in March of 2017 visiting every zone as well as islands. Sponsored in conjunction with The State of Maine and Stonington Co-op, Swans Island Co-op, Cranberry Isles Co-op, Beals-Jonesport Co-op, Tenents Harbor Co-op and Port Clyde Co-op, the tour reached out to the hundreds of people working the lobster supply chain.



The MLA has consistently advocated for expanding research on lobster stocks and developing cooperative research projects in order to integrate fishermen’s vast knowledge of the ocean and lobster resource. MLA members have pioneered many collaborative research projects working with university, government and independent scientists on a variety of research projects.

V Notch Survey

In 1982, the MLA began collecting data on the number of v-notched lobsters present in traps to measure the impact of this conservation program on the lobster population.

The survey took place in early October each year. During any two days of the survey week, lobstermen recorded the number of females, eggers, V-notch, short and oversize females on a data card. The results from this survey were used to track the effectiveness of v-notching as a conservation measure to protect lobster brood stock in the Gulf of Maine. The information is kept by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) and is available to scientists and managers.



Research Projects with the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance

Past projects with MLCA include Inshore Herring Acoustic Survey, and whale entanglement research. You can read more about them here.