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In the News: July 2015

Monhegan buoy suffers damage Everyone knows that it was a tough winter, even for automated ocean buoys. As a result of heavy snow and high winds, the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) buoy E located southwest of Monhegan Island was severely damaged this winter. The cause of damage to Buoy E is unknown, but significant damage to the tower caused it to partially break off. The University of Maine’s Physical Oceanology Group has recovered the damaged buoy and deployed another.

DMR licensing system to change The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is transitioning to a new online licensing system. The department urges all current license holders planning to renew their license online to do so before July 16, when the shift from the old to a new, more efficient system begins. After July 16, license holders will need to use paper applications or wait until September to apply through the new online system. Known as LEEDS (Licensing, Enforcement and Environmental Data System) the new system will provide easy-to-use online tools for license application, renewal, and landings reporting. Available 24-hours-a-day, the system will automatically integrate new information so license holder data will always be up to date. License renewals and new applications will be available through the new LEEDS system after DMR conducts internal testing this summer. DMR will communicate directly with license holders when the system launch date is confirmed, and will include links on its Web site to the new online LEEDS system.

Federal Trap transfer program announced NOAA regulators are moving ahead with a lobster trap transfer program that they say will give permit holders more flexibility and enable permit holders from other areas to “buy in” to the area by purchasing traps. The program applies in the Outer Cape Area and Area 3, the offshore fishery extending from Maine to North Carolina. NOAA had deferred the start of the program until a centralized trap transfer database was ready; according to NOAA officials, “significant progress” has been made on the database. NOAA will accept trap transfer applications between August 1 and September 30. Approved trap allocations will be effective for the start of the 2016 fishing year on May 1, 2016.

Church lobster suppers come to an end St. Ann’s Parish in the village of Hope River on Prince Edward Island has been running its lobster suppers since 1964. But this year will be its last. The suppers were run by church parishioners to help raise money for church building maintenance and for events and programs within the parish and the community. A lucky diner could expect to eat a cup of seafood chowder, plate of steamed mussels, Caesar salad, lobster with coleslaw and potato salad, with lemon pie for dessert. Paula Gauthier, the chair of the property and finance committee for St. Ann’s Parish, said the lobster suppers have been losing money for the last three years. “The bottom line is getting more difficult to maintain,” said Gauthier. “Food has gone up and our numbers were dropping.” Location was part of the problem too. “We are sort of off the beaten track if you will.”

Herring plan amendment withdrawn for now This winter the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) issued draft amendment 3 to its herring management plan for public comment. The draft amendment addressed issues such as spawning protection measures, fixed gear set-aside provisions and the requirement to empty fish holds. In June, ASMFC Atlantic Herring Section members expressed concern about the highly technical nature of the proposed measures and their potential impacts on the fishing industry. In response to those concerns, the amendment has been withdrawn from public review. Terry Stockwell, Section chair, will provide guidance to ASMFC staff about changes to the spawning protection measures at its next meeting in August. These changes will clearly define the goal of spawning protections, describe proposed methodologies and measures in a way that is understandable to the fishing industry, and detail the benefits and impacts of spawning closures to herring. The proposed spawning protection measures will then be refined for consideration in November. American fishermen caught more than 200 million pounds of Atlantic herring in 2013. The biggest catches were in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Lobsterman’s invention eases pain of hauling David Hiltz Jr., a lobsterman out of Deer Isle, had a bad shoulder. The doctor told him he might need a shoulder replacement if something didn’t change. The damage came from the way he hauled his traps in, grabbing the trap as it comes out of the water and sliding it aft on the gunnel while at the same time, snapping the gangion of the approaching second trap out of the block. Hiltz decided to do something different. He modified a block used in Canada to allow lobstermen to haul safely and with less damage to their bodies. Called the EZ Block, it is lighter and more affordable than the Canadian model.

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