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In the News: October 2012

Electricity finally flows from Cobscook Bay The first tidal power plant in North America went on line in September when the Ocean Renewable Power Company turbine sent electricity from its Cobscook Bay turbine into Bangor Hydro’s electrical grid. The turbine can generate 180 kilowatts of electrical power, enough for 30 homes. ORPC won the first contract for tidal power with the Maine Public Utilities Commission; it is approved to provide up to five megawatts of electricity from its turbines. Ocean Renewable Power Company’s underwater turbine is mounted on the sea floor, where they slowly spin in the current, out of sight and well beneath the hulls of passing vessels. Tests so far suggest the turbines have no effect on marine life, which appears to have no difficulty detecting and swimming around them.

Public comment sought on Northern shrimp management plan addendum The ASMFC will hold public meetings in October to gather comments on Draft Addendum I to Amendment 2 to the Northern shrimp fishery management plan. Management options that may be implemented in the 2012/2013 fishing season include: a hard total allowable catch (TAC) that requires payback of overages to prevent overfishing; TAC allocation by gear type and/or state based on historical landings (including a transferability provision); closing the fishery when a percentage of the TAC is reached to prevent overages; gear modifications to minimize the retention of small shrimp; and a mechanism to set aside a percentage of the TAC to help support research on the stock and fishery. In addition, Draft Addendum I asks whether limited access should be implemented in the future and, if so, how landings history should be assigned, and whether the public supports capping the number of licenses. Meetings will be held in Maine on October 1 at 4 p.m. at Ellsworth Middle School; October 2 at 4:00 pm Yarmouth Log Cabin; and October 3 at 4 p.m. at Rockland High School. For more information contact Terry Stockwell at the Department of Marine Resources, 207-624-6553.

Northeast groundfisheries officially declared disaster On September 13, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank issued fishery disaster determinations in the Northeast, Alaska, and in Mississippi. The declarations open the door for Congress to appropriate money toward alleviating the financial hardship caused by the disaster. “Despite fishermen’s adherence to catch limits over the past few years, recent data shows that several key fish stocks are not rebuilding,” Blank said in a statement announcing the emergency declaration. “Low levels of these stocks are causing a significant loss of access to fishery resources with anticipated revenue declines that will greatly affect the commercial fishery.” Stocks of cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder have been found to be much less than anticipated thus fisheries regulators are likely to reduce annual catch quotas for the next fishing significantly. Approximately 45 groundfishing vessels are still based in Maine, most of them in the southern part of the state. In 2011, those vessels landed more than 5 million pounds of groundfish, with an estimated dockside value of nearly $5.8 million. All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation spoke in favor of the disaster declaration, issuing a joint response to the declaration. “The fact is, key fish stocks have not returned to support our fishermen despite their adherence to new and rigorous management practices. It is now time for Congress to support this industry by lowering operating costs for this upcoming fishing year and by investing in the resource for the long-term through scientific research to better understand these challenges.” If authorized by Congress, aid to fishermen could include money to cover required costs, such as the independent observers to monitor their catch and funds to improve fishery science and stock assessments. New England’s governors have requested $100 million in disaster assistance.

Governor LePage’s trade mission to China termed a success Representatives from thirteen Maine businesses and organizations participated in the September trade mission to mainland China. The visitors met with business people over the course of a week spent in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Maine exports wood pulp, paper products, electrical and industrial machinery, aircraft parts and seafood to China, representing $275-million dollars in sales in 2011. Of that, $15 million of those exports were lobsters, mollusks and eels shipped to Hong Kong alone. China is the state’s third-largest foreign market, and is expected to continue to grow as an export market for Maine businesses. Promoting the Maine brand and seeking investment interest were the governor’s goals. Chinese officials and business people expressed interest in several Maine industries, including renewable energy, biomass, wood products, information technology and seafood.


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