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In the News: December 2011

Cooke Aquaculture charged with illegal pesticide discharge Cooke Aquaculture of New Brunswick and three of its officials were criminally charged in early November with using illegal pesticides that killed lobsters within a few miles of Maine’s border. The majority of charges are punishable by up to a $1 million fine and three years in prison. The company had been under investigation by Environment Canada in connection with the lobster deaths off Deer Island in February, 2010, and Grand Manan Island in late 2009. In both cases, the dead and dying lobsters were found to have been exposed to cypermethrin, a pesticide banned in Canada but permitted with prior state approval in Maine. According to Environment Canada, the company and each of the three Cooke officials are accused of releasing cypermethrin into Passamaquoddy Bay and the water off Grand Manan. All three men are scheduled to appear in New Brunswick provincial court in St. Stephen on December 13.

Menhaden quota cut At its November meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted 14 to 3 to cut the amount of menhaden that can be harvested annually by up to 37 percent. The 2010 quota was183,000 metric tons. The commission will draft a plan for implementing the new quota, to be in place by May, 2013. Prior to the meeting, the ASMFC received more than 91,000 letters on the proposal, the majority of which urged members to reduce the catch. The ASMFC estimates indicate that fifty years ago there were about 90 billion menhaden along the east coast a year old or less. Twenty-five years ago, that number was 70 billion. The most recent assessments suggest that 18 billion menhaden that age exist. Omega Protein Corporation of Virginia harvested 160,000 metric tons or 80 percent of the annual harvest last year. The company crushes the fish into meal to feed livestock and farmed fish around the world. The remaining 20 percent is used for crab or lobster bait.

NOAA to review river herring with an eye to ESA listing The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced its plans to review river herring populations to determine whether the fish should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The review will determine whether the fish should be listed as endangered or threatened, or not listed at all. The review was prompted by a petition submitted in August, 2011, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which argued that river herring populations were being devastated by incidental by-catch at sea. Since 2008, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which manages the two species of fish, has been conducting an assessment of river herring populations from Maine to Florida. River herring include alwives and blueback herring. The anadromous fish, which swim up rivers to breed, are thought to play a key role in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem.

Penobscot Marine Museum photograph collections open to all, on-line Penobscot Marine Museum has opened an online visual database to make its photograph collections available to anyone, anywhere. Access to the database is free. Viewers can use their home computers to see photographs of New England and elsewhere, many more than 100 years old. The database also has a feature that allows users to comment on the images and add their own information. More than 45,000 records are online, almost 29,000 of them with photographs. The records are from six of the museum's collections of historic photographs, dating from the 1880s to the 1950s. Among the coollections now online in the database are the Atlantic Fisherman Collection, comprised of photographs from the fishing industry’s most important newspaper, from 1919 to the 1950s;  the Joanna Colcord and Ruth Montgomery collections, two sea captains’ daughters who went to sea and took hundreds of photographs documenting life on sailing ships in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and the Elmer Montgomery and Charles Coombs collections which record life in the towns along Penobscot Bay.

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