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Steaming mad: Maine charges lobsterman for 'egregious' catch violation

BOSTON (Reuters) - Maine wildlife officials are pressing charges against a local fisherman for possessing hundreds of undersized or otherwise protected lobsters, calling it one of the state's most "egregious" lobstering violations in a quarter century.

Maine Marine Patrol said on Tuesday that Theodore Gray, 34, of Stonington had 269 undersized lobsters, and 123 whose tails were v-notched - indicating that they were protected breeding females that should have been thrown back.

Maine has strict rules protecting its iconic lobster industry, a major summer tourist draw that employs some 4,500 people and was valued at over $360 million in 2013.

"Through my 28-year career I have only seen a handful of what I would call extreme violations like this involving the taking of short lobsters," said Marine Patrol Major Jon Cornish in a press release announcing the charges. "In the last 24 years, there have only been two such cases, which make this one of the most egregious violations I have seen," he said.

Gray was not immediately available to comment on the charges. If convicted, he could face two years in jail and over $100,000 in fines.

Lobster populations in Maine have been booming in recent years, in part thanks to the industry's strict adherence to releasing small ones and breeders. But the surging supply is pinching lobstermen's profits by cutting prices at the docks.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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