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In the News: July 2012

Native American tribe protests St. Croix River management Three chiefs representing the Passamaquoddy tribe in Maine and New Brunswick declared a state of emergency in the St. Croix River in June. Tribal governors at Indian Township and Pleasant Point, Maine joined with Chief Hugh Akagi of New Brunswick announced that alewives  “are threatened with extinction” on the St. Croix. “For the past 17 years Maine has harmed the Passamaquoddy People by blocking anadromous fish from accessing its ancient and traditional spawning grounds in the upper St. Croix River. This action severely diminished a traditional food source and disturbed our cultural practices. We insist the State of Maine immediately remove this blockage and allow these fish to pass.” Dams installed in the St. Croix River in 1995 have prevented alewives from migrating to their spawning grounds in an effort to protect smallmouth bass. The alewife population in the river has dropped dramatically since that time. The three tribal governors said that if the state is not going to open up the river then they want the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian body which oversees management of the river, to “exercise its authority and open this blockage.”

Dam removal will open Penobscot River to sea-run fisheries again Demolition began in June of the 200-year-old Great Works Dam on the Penobscot River in Bradley. Removal of the dam is a milestone in a 13-year effort by Penobscot River Restoration Trust, a coalition of 17 conservation groups, the Penobscot Indian Nation, government entities and corporations. In 2013 the Veazie Dam, which is larger and closer to the ocean, is slated to also be destroyed. In addition, the Milford dam will get a new fish lift and a fish bypass will be built at the Howland dam. The project has been called the biggest river restoration project in the eastern U.S. and is expected to cost about $62 million. As a result of the two dams’ demolition, 1,000 miles of the Penobscot River will once again be open to 11 species of anadromous fish, including Atlantic salmon and river herring. Before European settlers began altering the river, between 75,000 and 100,000 Atlantic salmon traveled through Bangor on annual spawning runs. Today, only about 1,300 make it that far. Between 14 million and 20 million river herring made it upriver in the past, while fewer than 1,000 make it today. Furthermore, removal of the two dams will not reduce the amount of electricity generated by hydropower on the river. Black Bear Hydro will increase energy production at other facilities along the river system, places where there better passage for the fish.

GMRI wins limited entry analysis contract On June 25, the Department of Marine Resources awarded the Gulf of Maine Research Institute the contract to conduct an analysis of the lobster licensing system in the state. In 2011, the Legislature asked the Department to evaluate the current licensing system and to make recommendations for improvements. The final report will be presented to the Legislature in January, 2013; a draft report is anticipated to be completed in mid-fall.

Canada keeps pushing for quality lobsters Quality, price and volume; those are three areas identified by the Lobster Council of Canada as key to addressing widespread woes that have befallen the lobster industry on Canada’s east coast. At a meeting of the Lobster Fishing Area 34 lobstermen in late June, Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council, emphasized one point repeatedly:  “quality, quality, quality.” He referred to soft shell lobsters landed during the first weeks of the fall fishery as a problem that reached new heights in 2011. Irvine said that soft shell lobster “affects our brand position and how people see our lobster.” The high volume and poor quality at the beginning of the fall season must be addressed. One idea, to grade lobsters on board the fishing boats, has met with resistance from harvesters. But the benefits might make it worth it in terms of higher prices paid for the graded product, Irvine argued.

Lobster stock assessment process begins this summer The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will begin work on its 2014 American lobster benchmark stock assessment this summer. The assessment will be used to evaluate the health of lobster stocks. The stock assessment process and meetings, which will continue through June of 2012, are open to the public. In addition, the commission welcomes submission of data sets that will improve the accuracy of the assessment. For data sets to be considered at any workshop, the data must be sent to the Commission at least one month prior to the meeting at which the data will be reviewed. The fi rst workshop, on the life history of lobsters, will be held on August 6 at the DMR laboratory in West Boothbay. Those who are interested in submitting data for the life history workshop should contact Genny Nesslage ( or 703.842.0740) by July 6.

Area 1 limited entry rule not a cause for alarm The rule, which takes effect in 2013, is being implemented at the request of lobstermen who are active in management. The concern was that Area 1 currently is the only “open” federal lobster fishing area. Thus as lobster populations decline resource declines outside of the Gulf of Maine, Area 1 could see an large number of federal permits from other lobster fishing areas transferred in or non-trap federal lobster permits being used in the trap fishery.  The National Marine Fisheries Service goal is to limit effort in Area 1 to is present level. For those lobstermen not actively fishing in Area 1, if they have purchased tags with their license they are considered to have fishing history. The qualification criteria are meant to protect fishermen who are already fishing in Area 1. The difficulty falls to anyone who is planning to purchase an Area 1 permit. They must make sure that  there is some (at least one) tags associated with that license during the qualifying period (2004 to 2008).  If someone buys an Area 1 permit without any history of tags purchased during the qualification period, they will not be able to buy tags in the future for it.


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