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Coastal Outlook: Thoughts from MLCA President Patrice McCarron March 2018

It’s an old saying that March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Here in Maine it’s more likely that March remains lion-like throughout, with all the variations — snow, sleet, freezing rain and wind — that Maine’s climate is known for. Come April we might start bringing our heads out from beneath the blankets, but you never know! This month in Landings we bring you stories from near and far. Continuing our series on lobster cooperatives we take a look at a place in Canada where cooperatives first started and are going strong today. Tignish lies at the northeast tip of Prince Edward Island. In 1924 local fishermen broke free of the traditional fishing arrangement in which they rented their boats from fish brokers in exchange for half of their annual catch. Forming an association, they began selling their catch off-island, then managed to buy a fish processing plant of their own. Today the Tignish Fisheries Co-operative Association is a thriving, multi-faceted business with 190 members. And local residents truly understand the benefit of a cooperative: within the small town there is also a cooperative senior center, health center and grocery store as well. Back in Maine, Landings follows the ever-changing story of Maine Aqua Ventus, a two-turbine, 6-megawatt floating wind power project to be located three miles southwest of Monhegan Island. The state’s Public Utilities Commission, which agreed in 2014 to a twenty-year price for electricity generated by the proposed development, decided in January to seek public comment on that agreement, noting that electricity prices had changed. Many fishermen in Maine’s mid-coast region remain wary of the project’s possible impact on the lobster and other fisheries. The public comment period closed on February 21. We also hear this month from John Sackton, publisher of SeafoodNews.com, on the subject of offshore oil and gas drilling on the East Coast. In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would reopen the country’s Outer Continental Shelf submerged lands for leasing by corporations interested in exploring for oil and gas deposits. States such as California and Florida, which have borne the brunt of past coastal oil spills, responded in alarm, as did Maine’s Congressional delegation. Sackton’s editorial notes that at present oil companies have expressed little interest in the hazardous pursuit of offshore oil. Furthermore, the timeframe for such development is measured in decades, during which time the political climate is likely to change. Jeffrey Bennett, senior trade specialist at the Maine International Trade Center, provides a roundup of Maine’s 2017 seafood exports. Seafood was once again the state’s primary export, valued at $469.8 million. Seventy-one percent of that seafood was lobster. The demand for Maine lobster in Asia continues to be strong. In 2017, $128 million of live lobster was shipped to China alone, a dramatic jump from the $1 million worth shipped in 2010. Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) executive director Matt Jacobson chronicles his organization’s efforts to increase demand for Maine lobster and the favorable response of the state’s seven lobster zone councils and Lobster Advisory Council to those efforts. The statute which established the Collaborative in 2013 called for its end in October of this year unless the Legislature reauthorized it. At press time, a bill renewing the MLMC for an additional three years was making its way through the Marine Resources Committee for a vote by the full Legislature. As part of Landings’ continuing series “People of the Coast,” we profile the Brewers of Stonington. Donna and Marsden Brewer illustrate the traditional flexibility of a Maine fishing family. Each person has turned his or her hand to different trades in the challenge to make a good living. Donna started an upholstery business; Marsden, a lobsterman, has become involved in scallop aquaculture. Together the two run Red Barn Farm on the family homestead, where they produce artisanal goat cheese and other products. On the topic of health and happiness, Ann Backus at the Harvard School of Public Health writes a timely column on how to prevent serious injuries from the cold while fishing. Maine Lobstermen’s Association health insurance Navigator Bridget Thornton gives those contemplating their federal income taxes tips on how to get organized. And staff at the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety provide an update on their ongoing life jacket safety project. To date 181 lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts have tested a variety of life jackets while fishing. An astonishing 530 lobstermen have provided their perspective on life jacket design to the project’s staff. What do they say? Life jackets used while fishing should be “comfortable, flat/not bulky, with no straps or buckles to snag, easy to clean, easy to use, bright in color, and for many, integrated into something already worn.” Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to ensure safety while fishing. Now the trick will be to get those traits built into life jacket designs. We hope you enjoy this issue of Landings and welcome your thoughts on future stories.

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