The state’s attorney general was unable to get convictions in two trap-molestation cases that went to court last year, despite eyewitness accounts by Maine Marine Patrol officers who said they saw buoys being cut.

As a result, the state Department of Marine Resources’ Lobster Advisory Council is looking at alternative models to deal with trap molesting.

DMR Deputy Commissioner David Etnier told the Zone B Lobster Council, at the Jan. 14 meeting at Mount Desert High School, that trap molesting is hard to patrol and, even when someone is caught, it’s hard to prove intent.

The DMR’s thinking, Etnier said, is that the 2009 cases were lost because the juries didn’t want to see the two lobstermen in question lose their livelihoods for three years.

“Juries don’t understand why the penalties are so severe,” Etnier said.

It is unlawful for anyone except the gear’s licensed owner or a Marine Patrol officer to raise or molest a lobster trap, warp, buoy or lobster car. Conviction for a violation carries a mandatory three-year loss of license.

The discussion dates back to the LAC’s September 2009 meeting. Minutes indicate the group heard from Marine Patrol Col. Joe Fessenden, who said his agency was getting complaints from the Midcoast about trap-cutting.

Some ideas that have come up for a different model include setting up a licensing review board, establishing a jury of peers, or giving the DMR’s commissioner the discretion to impose a milder penalty for a first offense.

Zone B fishermen were leery of putting the matter into the hands of the commissioner; one man said the commissioner might let a trap molester off too easily. Zone B Chairman Jon Carter said it might be difficult to convene a jury of peers.

“Who would want to sit on a panel and tell someone they can’t go fishing for three years?” Carter said.

It was suggested the panel could be from a zone other from where the case occurred.

The discussion will continue at the LAC’s upcoming meeting Thursday, Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. at the Natural Resource Services Center in Hallowell, and will come back to the zone councils for further consideration.

The LAC is also talking about setting a higher fine for fishermen who keep their traps continually in the water through the winter, as a de facto storage area. The fine is currently $250, but there is some thought at the LAC level that the fine should be higher or a habitual offender’s license should be suspended for some period of time, Etnier said.