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  • MLCA

In the News: September, 2014

Scallop season takes shape The state Department of Marine Resources, acceding to the wishes of the Scallop Advisory Council, has proposed that draggers and divers be allowed to fish for scallops the same number of days in 2014-15 as in the previous season. “We are putting forth a recommendation that considers industry interest and input,” said Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “However, this decision runs counter to the advice of our science staff. So we anticipate having to cut days from the season with area closures enacted through emergency rulemaking, as we detect depletion of the resource beyond what can be regenerated in a season.” The number of harvesters between 2008 and 2013 tripled, jumping from 131 to 421, which has increased pressure on the fishery in recent years. The proposed 2014-2015 scallop season calls for a 70-day season in Zones 1 and 2 and a 15-gallon daily limit with separate calendars for divers and draggers. For Zone 3, a 50-day season and 10-gallon daily limit are proposed with separate calendars for divers and draggers. There are additional rules proposed for limited-access areas in Zones 1 and 3. The DMR is proposing to implement a number of targeted closures based on depletion and the presence of spat-producing scallops which include Eastern Casco Bay, Damariscotta River, Ocean Point, Muscle Ridge (open two days per week) and Lower Muscle Ridge, and to protect municipal mooring fields in Blue Hill Harbor, Western Blue Hill Bay, Bartlett’s Harbor, Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Somes Harbor.

Long Island Sound lobster fishery down by half The Long Island Sound lobster fishery showed a marked decline in 2013. After a three month closure, which state and federal officials expected would result in a 10% decline in landings, the total lobster catch from Long Island Sound in 2013 fell by just under 50%, from 230,000 pounds to 121,700 pounds. The decline has reduced the number of full-time commercial lobstermen by 75 percent, from the nearly 600 at the fishery’s height in 1998 to slightly more than 150 last year. The number of recreational and part-time lobstermen has fallen by 84 percent over the same period, from more than 1,400 in 1998 to 227 last year. In response to the critically depleted status of the stock, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission required the Long Island Sound lobster fishery to close for three months last November; a second three-month shutdown will take place later this year. Significant lobster declines recorded in 2002 and 2010 coincided with rising water temperatures and low oxygen levels that may have made lobster more vulnerable to lobster shell disease.

New regulations ease harvest of green crabs Beginning in August, Maine fishermen no longer need a special license to harvest and sell green crabs. Furthermore, they don’t have to report their green crab harvests to the Department of Marine Resources. Commercial lobstermen will be allowed to take them as bycatch. And when the Sheepscot, Damariscotta and Medomak rivers are closed for fishing other species of crabs between December 1 and April 30, fishermen still will be able to harvest green crabs from those waters. The changes are in response to the dramatic rise in green crabs throughout the coast. Green crabs eat bivalves such as softshell clams, which are Maine’s third-most-lucrative fishery. In 2013, the harvest of 10.6 million pounds of softshell clams was valued at $16.9 million. Making it easier to catch the crabs may help to keep the predators’ numbers down. In 2012, just 36 licenses were issued and 3,762 pounds landed. In 2013, 52 green crab licenses were issued, and 10,596 pounds were harvested, according to preliminary data from the DMR.

ASFMC delays eel rules The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s American Eel Management Board met in August to consider final approval of Draft Addendum IV to the eel fishery management plan. The draft addendum proposed a suite of options to address the commercial glass, yellow, and silver eel fisheries along the Atlantic coast. The Board reviewed public comment from state public hearings conducted along the coast and written comments. After lengthy discussion about the proposed options and in recognition of the states’ varying interests, the Board decided to postpone final action until October. A subcommittee will meet before then to identify preferred management measures to be considered by the Board at its October meeting in Mystic, Connecticut.


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