top of page
  • MLCA

Maine Lobstermen's Association Update: August 2016

-The Swedish petition to ban import of American lobster: an European Union (EU) scientific forum has given Sweden until July 31 to respond to the U.S. and Canadian diplomatic, scientific and commercial opposition to the Swedish-led proposal to label American lobster an invasive alien species and ban its import by the EU. The EU scientific forum asked Sweden’s scientists to reinforce or expand the scientific basis for the American lobsters as an invasive species posing a threat to the indigenous European lobster population.

-The MLA joined the Atlantic Offshore and Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Associations in a letter to NMFS regarding the next steps in the whale plan to urge them to ensure that any new reporting requirements are not redundant and that they also enhance their data collection on whales.

-Coast Guard safety rules: the Coast Guard has proposed new regulations to implement the provisions of the Coast Guard Acts of 2010 and 2012, but the rules do not cover 2015 amendments. Comments are due in September.

-Draft Ocean Plan: the MLA is reviewing the draft ocean plan which was released in May. The Island Institute released a companion piece entitled “Lobster and Ocean Planning” which provides additional guidance on how to work with the lobster industry on ocean planning issues. Comments are due in late-July.

-UMaine wind development: The UMaine-led ocean wind project Aqua Ventus is eligible to receive up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and deploy full-scale wind turbines off Monhegan. The MLA will monitor this project as it develops.MLA’s membership campaign is underway! Harvesters who join by August 31 will be entered in a raffle to win $1,000. MLA thanks Smithwick & Mariners for their generous support of this raffle. The membership campaign will be run on social media, email, phone calls, with limited mailings. The MLCA has held several fundraising nights. The Board discussed other strategies to raise funds in support of programs such as the Lobster Leadership Program and Lobster Quality. The MLA is closely monitoring the research underway in Massachusetts to test weak lines. Next Board meeting will be on September 7 at 5 p.m. Board members will meet earlier at 3 p.m. to continue discussions on developing a plan for the industry. Herring Landings:

-3 fishing days (Saturday 6 p.m. to Tuesday 6 p.m.)

-2 landing days (Sunday 6 p.m. to Tuesday 6 p.m.)

-Weekly landing limit of no more than 600,000 lbs (15 trucks)

-Harvester vessels can make at-sea transfers to only one carrier vessel per week

-Harvester vessels are limited to making one landing per 24-hour period (6 p.m. to 6 p.m.)

-Harvester and carrier vessels shall send an email hail to DMR three hours prior to landing. See DMR website for specific reporting    requirements. Given the above measures, action on behalf of the ASMFC Atlantic Herring Section is not warranted at this time; therefore, the ‘days out’ call on July 11 is cancelled. Staff will continue to monitor landings and will schedule ‘days out’ calls on an as-needed basis, while providing 48 hours notice to interested parties. Vessels (except those landing in Maine) should adhere to the following ‘days out’ schedule for Area 1A that was released by the Commission in April.

-July 1-14: Vessels may land 4 consecutive days a week. All other days are designated as ‘days out’ of the fishery (e.g., vessels may not land  herring).

-July 15-September 30: Vessels may land herring 5 consecutive days a week until further notice.ASMFC Herring Section: The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Herring Section members from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts met via conference call on Wednesday July 20, to discuss Area 1A (inshore Gulf of Maine) days out measures for Trimester 2 (June 1 to September 30). The call was initiated to discuss increased effort in the fishery and equitable fishing opportunities. As of July 18, 41.3% of the Area 1A Trimester 2 quota (19,480 mt) had been harvested. Section members, with input from industry, modified the days out effort control measures for Area 1A Trimester 2 as follows:

-July 24 through September 30: Vessels may land herring two (2) consecutive days a week until further notice. All other days are designated as days out of the fishery (e.g., vessels may not land herring).

-Vessels in the State of New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may land herring starting at 12:01 a.m. on Mondays up to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesdays.

-Vessels in the State of Maine may land herring starting at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays up to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. Two landing days will become effective beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 24 and will remain in place until changed by additional notice.New England Fisheries Management Council: Groundfish and Herring – Haddock Bycatch Limit: After discussing timing for the industry and Council alike and on-going priorities, the Council approved a motion to separate the development of the Georges Bank haddock catch cap for the Atlantic herring mid-water trawl fishery from the on-going groundfish framework. Framework 56 will now include the following types of management measures:

* Updates to status determination criteria, stock status, and annual catch limits based on upcoming stock assessments for witch flounder and the US/ CA stocks — Eastern Georges Bank (cod and haddock and Georges Bank yellowtail flounder);

* A sub-annual catch limit for northern windowpane flounder for the scallop fishery;

* An increase in the Georges Bank haddock subannual catch limit, or sub ACL, for the Atlantic herring mid-water trawl fishery;

* Revisions to the process used to develop management measures for the recreational fishery; and

* Modification of Atlantic halibut management measures (to avoid a possible overage of the annual catch limit in state waters fisheries, measure). Note that the Groundfish Committee will develop measures to increase the Georges Bank haddock sub-ACL only, while the Herring Committee will continue work on the details of any changes to the accountability measures that relate to overages of the GB haddock sub-ACL. The details of the haddock catch cap will be included in a future herring framework adjustment. Development of revisions to the Georges Bank haddock accountability measures in the Atlantic herring midwater trawl fishery: The Council reviewed and approved revisions to the “purpose and need” for this action (see April Council Report, p. 3-4) to now include:

 -increased emphasis on reducing potential negative impacts on the herring fishery that could result if opportunities to fish in Area 3 and 1B are curtailed mid-season; and

-reducing the potential negative impacts on the mackerel fishery, given that these vessels are also affected by any accountability measures (AMs) for Georges Bank haddock if they participate in the Georges Bank winter mackerel fishery. The Council passed several motions to identify the range of alternatives, reflecting discussions held by the Groundfish and Herring Committees prior to this Council meeting. In addition to approving the “No Action” alternative, the items approved by the Council addressed the magnitude of the catch cap, changes to the herring fishery accountability measures, and their implementation. No pro-active accountability measures are to be considered at this time. Draft measures would:

* Increase the existing 1% haddock catch cap to something higher – 1.5% or 2%;

* Pair an increased cap with a transfer provision that permits any unused portion of Georges Bank haddock sub-ACL to revert back to the groundfish fishery mid-year;

* Modify the Georges Bank AM area based on new information about the highest bycatch rate areas;

* Potentially identify a season for the AM, rather than have an area close for the remainder of the groundfish fishing year once the AM is implemented;

* Allow a seasonal (80%/20%) split of the Georges Bank haddock sub-ACL to reserve some haddock bycatch for herring fishing activity later in the year; and

* Amend how catch is estimated through the addition of dockside monitoring in addition to sea sampling.Amendment 8 moves forward: Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Plan will advance considerably during the summer and early fall with additional direction from the Council, which is using a new Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) process to develop a long-term control rule for specifying the herring fishery’s Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC). A control rule is a formulaic approach for establishing a catch limit or target fishing level based on the best scientific information available. Amendment 8 has three goals, which are to: account for the role of Atlantic herring within the ecosystem, including as forage; to stabilize the fishery at a level designed to achieve optimum yield; and to address localized depletion in inshore waters. The stated objective is to “develop and implement an ABC control rule that manages Atlantic herring within an ecosystem context and addresses the goals of Amendment 8.” Back in January, the Council agreed to use MSE to develop alternatives for the herring ABC control rule. MSE utilizes a collaborative approach that calls for more public input and technical analysis upfront — before alternatives are actually selected — so that all involved have a better understanding of the potential impacts of various proposals. Stakeholders who attended a facilitated herring MSE workshop in May welcomed the approach. At its June meeting, the full Council reviewed the workshop’s outcomes, as well as additional recommendations from the Plan Development Team and the Herring Advisory Panel and Committee. The Council approved the ABC control rule objectives, performance metrics, and a range of ABC control rules for analysis. Industry-Funded Monitoring: The NMFS-led Industry-Funded Monitoring amendment is being developed jointly as an omnibus action to ensure consistency among any new industry-funded monitoring programs included in New England and Mid-Atlantic Council’s fishery management plans. The amendment also would include specific coverage levels for the Atlantic mackerel and Atlantic herring fisheries. The Councils are currently involved in crafting the specifics. If approved by both Councils and the agency, provisions would allow increased monitoring and/or other types of data collection in the herring and mackerel fisheries to more accurately characterizing catch, monitor annual catch limits, and/or provide other information. The increased monitoring under consideration would be independent of NOAA Fisheries’ Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) requirements. Final products—The amendment will include a standardized administrative structure. The action also clarifies that industry funding would be used in conjunction with, not instead of, federal funding to pay for additional monitoring to meet FMP-specific monitoring coverage targets that would be determined by each Council. What has happened to date? Earlier in the year both Councils approved preferred alternatives for the omnibus elements of the amendment or those that would apply to all programs initiated through this action. Other than refining one of the omnibus alternatives, the NEFMC focused its attention in June on changes to the monitoring coverage targets for the Atlantic herring fishery. Below is a list of the specific changes approved by the New England Council:

-An equal weighting approach to prioritize funding to support the administrative functions for new industry-funded monitoring programs among affected fisheries;

-Two options for at-sea monitoring sampling design. The additional option would include the collection of additional biological information on kept and discarded catch;

-After previously approving a measure that slippage reporting requirements, restrictions, and consequence measures be extended to herring trips that are also selected for at-sea monitoring coverage and electronic monitoring/portside sampling coverage, the Council reconsidered that decision in June, based on concerns that cameras might not be able to determine the cause of slippage events, possibly resulting in enforcement problems. Ultimately, Council members did not recommend removal of slippage consequence measures for any alternatives.

-An additional herring monitoring coverage target alternative that would apply monitoring coverage based on permit category or gear type. Based on permit category, the added alternative would apply at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage on Category A and B vessels using a midwater trawl, purse seine and small mesh bottom trawl gear at a rate of 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%.

-Based on gear type rather than permit category, the additional alternative would apply ASM coverage on vessels targeting herring using midwater trawl, purse seine, and small mesh bottom trawl gear at a rate of 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%. The Council also determined that pending satisfactory completion of the Fisheries Service electronic monitoring (EM) pilot project and an NEFMC review, vessels subject to IFM coverage could choose to continue with at-sea monitors or use EM/portside monitoring. These vessels would be limited to choosing one monitoring type per fishing year, and would be required to declare their preferred monitoring type six months in advance. The action would establish a minimum participation threshold for each monitoring type. The IFM discussion ended with Council approval of the Draft Environmental Assessment for purposes of seeking input at public hearings. The NEFMC also recommended a 45-day public comment period for this action and asked the agency for an update on the progress of the EM pilot project at its September 20-22 meeting in Danvers, MA. NMFS Lobster Trap Transfer Program: NMFS began a new Lobster Trap Transfer Program that allows permit holders the flexibility to buy and sell trap allocation for Lobster Conservation Management Areas 2, 3, and the Outer Cape. NMFS will accept trap transfer applications starting August 1 through September 30. Transfers will be effective on May 1, 2017. All Federal lobster permit holders with qualified Area 2, 3, and/or Outer Cape Area traps, including those with permits in confirmation of permit history (CPH), may sell traps up to their full permitted allocation to another Federal lobster permit holder. All Federal lobster permit holders, including those with permits in CPH, may buy traps up to the current cap limit for Areas 2, 3, and/or Outer Cape, even if their lobster permit does not qualify for trap fishing. If you have more than one Federal permit, you can be both the ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ to transfer traps between your permits. Any dual (state and Federal) permit holder who wishes to transfer traps (either buy or sell) must have the same state and Federal trap allocation. If the state and Federal allocations do not match, the permit holder may only transfer traps if he/she agrees to align the state and Federal permit allocations at the lowest allocation for each Area. Traps cannot be leased. The Trap Transfer Program regulations require that Area 1 permit holders who choose to sell Area 2, 3, and/or Outer Cape traps will permanently give up their Area 1 trap fishing rights. Area 1 permit holders may choose to buy traps through the program without giving up their Area 1 trap qualification. A Federal-only permit holder cannot buy or sell traps from or to a state-only permit holder. You must possess a Federal lobster permit to retain Federal traps, and a state permit to retain state traps. Every buyer is taxed 10% conservation tax on his/her purchase and is only able to receive 90% of the transferable traps to his/her permit; e.g., 100 traps are bought, 90 traps are transferred to the buyer’s permit, and 10 traps are retired from the fishery. A Trap Transfer Program Guide and other detailed information about the program is available at Proposed Coast Guard Regulations: The Coast Guard published proposed safety regulations on June 21. Comments are due September 19. This rule proposes to implement the statutory mandate of the USCG Acts of 2010 and 2012 that relate to commercial fishing vessels and that can be incorporated in regulations without exercise of any Coast Guard discretion. These rules do not reflect any provisions of 2015 reauthorization. The Coast Guard is considering additional regulatory actions through discretionary authority to improve the safety of fishing vessel operations but will seek public comment before seeking these actions. The proposed regulations address many issues.

Vessel Parity – The law states that undocumented vessels are no longer excluded from USCG commercial fishing vessel (CFV) safety regulations. The proposed rule clarifies that, at least for now, any proposed changes that require Coast Guard discretion would only apply to documented vessels. The USCG also now has discretionary authority to require additional safety equipment on CFC if it determines “a risk of serious injury exists that can be eliminated or mitigated by that equipment.” It requests public comment on the types or operational characteristics of CFVs that pose risk of serious injury and equipment to eliminate or mitigate it.

Substitute Baseline for Boundary Line Criteria – This proposed rule replaces statutory boundary line with 3 mile line, so all CFV safety regulations will apply to vessels operating in federal waters.

Survival Craft – This rule proposes to require all CFVs operating outside 3 miles to carry a survival craft that ensure “that no part of a person is immersed in the water.” Vessels operating inside 3 miles will be allowed to continue to use life boats or rigid buoyant apparatus. This proposal replaces earlier regulations proposed for February 2016.

Vessel Examinations – All fishing vessels fishing outside 3 miles are required to complete a vessel safety examination and receive a Safety Decal as of October 2015. Examinations are required every five years. The Coast Guard can order the termination of a fishing trip if the captain fails to demonstrate successful completion of a dockside exam. The Coast Guard is considering future rulemaking on how fishing vessel owners would request an examination. For now, vessels can demonstrate compliance by displaying a current valid safety sticker or by having a signed letter of compliance from an accepted third party. NMFS federal observers are prohibited from going on a vessel without a valid safety sticker.

Training – The Coast Guard will be requiring operator compliance training for the individual in charge of the fishing vessel. However, the proposed rule proposes no action on training requirements because the Coast Guard must first use its discretionary authority to determine how to recognize and give credit for commercial fishing vessel experience, and develop the specific items that the training covers.

Records – This rule proposes to require records of equipment maintenance and required instruction and drills to be kept for three years. Documented vessels operating outside 3 miles will be required to conduct monthly emergency drills by a fishing vessel drill conductor. The Coast Guard requests comments on further specifications for record retention.

Construction standards for smaller vessels – This rule proposes to restate the statutory mandate that all CFV’s less than 50 feet in overall length must be constructed as to provide a level of safety equivalent to the level required under USCG recreational standards (relating to safe loading, horsepower capacity limits, adequate flotation, safe electrical and fuel systems, navigation lights, etc). The CFV need not comply with each specific requirement, but rather the CFV must be able to demonstrate that they provide a safety standard that is equivalent to the level outlined in the standard.

Load Lines – The proposed rule removes the load line exemption of all commercial fishing vessels built after July 1, 2013 for vessels 79 feet or more in length.

Classing of Vessels – This section proposes changes to require all vessels operating beyond 3 miles, which are at least 50 feet in length and built after July 1, 2013, to meet all surveying and classing requirements prescribed by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) or other approved organization.

Termination of Unsafe Operations – This proposed rule expands the Coast Guard authority to terminate a CFV’s operation when they determine that unsafe conditions exist. The boarding officer may remove any certificate that the boarded vessel is required to possess if the boarding officer finds the vessel is no longer in compliance with the terms of the certificate.

Miscellaneous – This rules proposes that CFV’s must now have a series of equipment adequate for the size of the vessel and where the vessel operations including marine radio communications equipment sufficient to effectively communicate with land-based search and rescue facilities; navigation equipment including compasses, nautical charts, and publications; first aid equipment and medical supplies sufficient for the size and area of operation of the vessel; and ground tackle sufficient for the vessel. The Coast Guard requests comments on further specifications for this section.


bottom of page