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In The News: January 2016

One-cent levy on lobster approved on P.E.I. The Prince Edward Island cabinet has approved new regulations that will result in a one-cent-per-pound lobster levy collected from buyers next spring. P.E.I. Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac said this is the final step for the province, after the regulations for a one-cent-per-pound levy for lobster fishermen were passed in the summer. Lobstermen will contribute one cent per pound of lobsters harvested; lobster buyers will contribute one cent per pound of lobsters purchased. The funds will go toward a generic marketing program for lobsters. “This is something that is trying to be done right across the region. P.E.I. will be the first province to have this in place and we are going to start in the spring fishery,” McIsaac said.

Shrimp season cancelled for third time For the third winter in a row, there will be no commercial shrimp season in the Gulf of Maine. The shrimp population in the gulf remains depleted and is too low to allow commercial harvesting, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. “Ocean temperatures in western Gulf of Maine shrimp habitat have increased over the past decade and reached unprecedented highs in the past several years,” commission officials said in the statement. “While 2014 and 2015 temperatures were cooler, temperatures are predicted to continue to rise as a result of climate change. This suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for Northern shrimp.” Estimated numbers for shrimp in the Gulf of Maine from 2012 to 2015 remain “the lowest on record” over the past 32 years, according to commission spokeswoman Tina Berger. The commission did approve a research sampling program for 2016. The sampling limit was set at 48,000 pounds, with four trawl vessels sampling four regions with a maximum trip limit of 1,800 pounds, plus two trappers with a weekly trap limit of 40 traps and a 600-pound trip limit. Participating trawlers and trappers will be able to sell their catch.

Statoil given leases to explore in Gulf of Maine Two leases granted by Canada to Norwegian energy giant Statoil would allow the company to look for oil offshore on two parcels of land near Georges Bank and the entrance to the Gulf of Maine. The two offshore licenses cover an area slightly larger than 2,500 square miles which lies about 225 miles southeast of Bar Harbor. Depths on the two parcels range from about 1,000 to 3,000 meters (approximately 3,300 to 9,900 feet). The northern sections of the Statoil parcels are located at the entrance to the Northeast Channel, the 22-mile-wide deep-water passage that is the primary entrance and exit for the ocean water that circulates through the Gulf of Maine. Statoil paid $82 million Canadian for the rights to the two ocean-floor parcels. Shell Canada is already drilling two wells in deep water east of the Northeast Channel and Statoil’s new leases.

Judge rules Penobscot rights are to land, not water The Penobscot Indian reservation includes the islands on the main stem of the Penobscot River but not the water itself, a federal judge ruled in December. U.S. District Court Judge George Singal also ruled that members of the tribe may take fish from the entirety of that section of the river for sustenance. Singal’s rulings came more than three years after the tribe filed a lawsuit against the state as a result of a letter sent by former Attorney General William Schneider in 2012 to the tribal warden service saying that the state, not the tribe, has the authority to charge people with violating fishing regulations and water safety rules. The tribe alleged in the lawsuit that its reservation includes the water in the river because of the tribe’s sustenance fishing rights. Singal based his decision in part on language in the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, which defined the Penobscot Indian Reservation as the islands “consisting solely of Indian Island, also known as Old Town Island, and all islands in that river northward.”

Belfast shipyard moves into carbon-fiber boats Front Street Shipyard in Belfast is partnering with a Norwegian company to construct carbon-fiber ferry boats. J.B. Turner, president of Front Street, signed a memorandum of understanding with Brødrene Aa, a shipyard in Norway that has been building high-speed, carbon-fiber ferries for several years. The ferries Front Street is expecting to build would be between 100 feet and 130 feet long. The company intends to focus initially on passenger-only ferries that carry up to 150 people. Per federal law, any commercial vessels operating within the United States, from lobster boats to passenger ferries, need to be built in the United States. This effectively meant the market was off limits to Brødrene Aa. The carbon-fiber boats will result in much lighters boats, reducing the engine size and the amount of fuel used. “It’s an important step for Maine in general,” Turner said. “We have University of Maine, one of the biggest and best composite labs in the country, and so why shouldn’t Maine also be leading the way for boat building? It just makes perfect sense.” Front Street now employs slightly more than 100 people; building the ferries could add 50 to 100 jobs in the midcoast area.

UMaine revives offshore wind plans University of Maine received a $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy which puts Maine back in the running for a $40 million grant to install two six-megawatt wind turbines in deep water off Monhegan Island. “It does put us back in the game,” Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and principal investigator of the DeepCwind Consortium, told Mainebiz in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “We couldn’t be more pleased. This is a big deal.” These funds build on the $3 million received for the Maine Aqua Ventus pilot project in May 2014.

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