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In the News - February 2022

New Documentary Series on Challenges Facing Maine Lobster Industry

Maine native Andrew Joyce has produced the first segment in a new documentary series explaining the threats to Maine’s lobster heritage from the ten-year whale plan and offshore wind development. The first installment, available on Joyce’s YouTube channel “The Maine Reset,” tells this story through the eyes of the fishing industry. Joyce says that the series “scrutinizes plans to industrialize the Gulf of Maine and highlights the perspectives of the Mainers most affected. At the foreground of the conversation are Maine lobstermen. In later episodes, scientists and ecologists also weigh in. The result is a thought-provoking primer on an issue that could result in the fundamental transformation of the State of Maine.” Joyce is the son of Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce of Swans Island. You can view the video at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqYzBWljezcOUrZlquFWV2Q.

Huge offshore lease auction takes place this month

On February 23, the federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) will hold its first-ever offshore wind lease sale, auctioning a record of more than 480,000 acres offshore New York and New Jersey. The auction will allow offshore wind developers to bid on six lease areas in an area known as the New York Bight. Leases offered could result in 5.6 to 7 gigawatts of offshore wind energy. The New York Bight offshore wind auction will include several innovative lease stipulations, such as incentives to source major components domestically and project labor agreements to ensure projects are union-built. Currently, BOEM has 18 commercial offshore wind leases on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, and it recently announced plans to hold up to seven new offshore wind lease sales by 2025.

Lobster exports to China increase

American exporters sold more than 13.2 million pounds of lobster to China during the first 11 months of 2021. That was about 6% more than the same period the previous year. Shipments were complicated by the fact that a seafood company can’t send lobsters directly to Beijing because of COVID-19 restrictions so businesses used other airports, such as Shenzhen, to move product into the country. While the lobster industry is still performing well in the current market, the value of exports will likely not reach the same levels as in 2018 when exports totaled more than $100 million, which set a record for the industry.

U.S. Department of Agriculture buys more groundfish

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase $25 million in Atlantic groundfish products for distribution to food banks and other community assistance, another round of buying for the Northeast seafood industry that had been historically left out of USDA’s Section 32 nutrition program. The federal government’s Covid-19 response during 2020 included big USDA buys of seafood product like Alaska pollock, and New England lawmakers pushed for the same with their hard-hit fleets. The agency announced another round of $25 million aimed at the Northeast in funding Dec. 22.

Maine Fishermen’s Forum schedules online seminars

Although the Maine Fishermen’s Forum scheduled for March 2022 has been cancelled amid coronavirus concerns, the Forum Board has scheduled several online seminars for this year. The first will be on February 17, an afternoon seminar on changes to the Northern Gulf of Maine federal scallop fishery. The second will be an open forum with NOAA Fisheries leadership, to be held in March. The final seminar will focus on careers related to the ocean at date yet to be announced. In addition, an anonymous donor has contributed $15,000 to the annual Forum Scholarship Fund this year (deadline for application is March 3). The Forum Board has pledged to raise a total of $40,000 for student scholarships which will be awarded in a drawing on March 4.

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