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Maine Lobstermen’s Association update: December 2014/January 2015

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MLA Directors Meeting The MLA board met on November 11 in Belfast and discussed the outcome of the election. MLA will congratulate Governor LePage and reaffirm the association’s support for Commissioner Keliher. MLA will monitor discussions about a possible ASMFC appointment and committee appointments when the new Legislature convenes in January. The MLA board discussed the lobster season. Lobster landings remain strong, the price remains higher than last year though there was a significant price drop when the Grand Manan season opened. Fresh bait (herring) is getting tight since all herring areas currently are closed. Area 2 is the only area with approximately 28,000 metric tons left for 2014. The board noted that EPA pollution permits must be carried on vessels beginning December 19, 2014. The MLA board discussed the rising concern over cod bycatch in lobster traps raised through the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) Framework 53 process. Patrice consulted Carl Wilson on the accuracy of the cod bycatch estimate taken from the MSC report. Wilson stated that the data is being misinterpreted. DMR has data on cod bycatch in lobster traps from sea sampling; Wilson characterized the incidence as rare and cautioned that it is based on an extremely small sample size which makes is difficult to generate a realistic estimate for the fishery. Patrice attended a research update at the University of Maine looking at cod and cusk bycatch in lobster traps. To date, these studies indicate low encounter rates and very high survivability. Sample size is very small. MLA will continue to closely monitor this work. The MLA’s position is that cod bycatch in lobster traps is rare; those caught are released alive. MLA is open to working with researchers on improving data on cod bycatch and on educating lobstermen to ensure the fish are returned alive. MLA received a request to help organize a Penobscot Baykeepers Program. The MLA Directors replied that the MLA is already overcommitted but encouraged individuals who are interested to get involved. The Health Insurance Marketplace opens November 15. MLA has two staff members trained to assist lobstermen in the enrollment process. MLA is getting information out to the industry through Landings, email and social media, postcard mailing to all lobstermen and posters around coastal communities. The MLA Annual meeting will be held on the first Friday in March during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. The MLA is accepting nominations for lobstermen to serve on the MLA Board; the nomination form will run in the next two newsletter issues. Nominations will close in early February. The board discussed the Coast Guard requirement that life rafts be repacked annually and asked Patrice to follow-up with the Maine Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Council and the Maine delegation to get this requirement changed to every two years. The Directors acknowledged the loss of two lobstermen off Matinicus Island and will send condolences to the families. NEFMC Cod Bycatch in Lobster Traps In response to the extremely poor condition of Gulf of Maine cod stocks, the NEFMC in November debated a recommendation from the Council’s Groundfish Committee to restrict lobster fishing in the proposed groundfish spawning closures. With advice from MLA’s attorney, the MLA submitted written comments to the Council in strong opposition to the proposal. The Council debated the issue of banning lobster gear in cod spawning areas for more than two hours. Of the 11 individuals who weighed in on the proposal, only one spoke in favor. The Council’s discussion revealed that many believe that cod bycatch could impact the recovery of the cod stocks, but that more research is needed. The Council passed the following motion (14-1-1; Frank Blount opposed, Libby Etrie abstained): That closed area measures in Framework 53 not apply to lobster pot gear and the council directs the groundfish PDT to collaborate with the ASMFC Lobster Technical Committee to fully analyze all available data to better understand the bycatch and interactions with the lobster fishery. Any future management action affecting the lobster fishery should be considered with the ASMFC Lobster Management Board. Southern Maine Hydrographic Survey The NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler will be conducting hydrographic survey operations in southern Maine -- between Wells and Cape Elizabeth -- intermittently from January through February, 2015. Additional planned operations in Maine over the next three years include western Penobcot Bay in 2016 and Casco Bay in 2017. These planned survey operations are subject to change due to weather and logistical constraints. Multibeam sonar will be used to acquire detailed bottom data, delineating and obtaining least depths of potential hazards to navigation. It is understood that there may be fishing gear in the area during survey operations. The Ferdinand R. Hassler will exercise every caution while surveying to avoid entanglement with fishing gear. If fishing gear does become entangled, the ship will immediately stop and clear the fishing gear. There is an email subscription list to provide updates on the activities of NOAA ships performing hydrographic survey work and to announce any changes in schedules. You can subscribe at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/. After entering email address and appropriate contact information, select the “Vessel updates in lobster fishing areas” email list. If there are questions or general comments on the ship’s activities, contact Navigation Manager for the Northeast, LT Meghan McGovern at 401-782-3252 or Meghan.McGovern@noaa.gov. Fishermen that believe they have suffered damaged or lost gear as a result of an interaction with Ferdinand R. Hassler should use the Tort Claims process by completing a Standard Form 95 (SF-95), Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death available at www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/civil/legacy/2011/11/01/SF-95.pdf. The claimant must complete sections 1-2, 6-9 and 11-19 of the SF-95, making sure to include:

  1. the location of the damaged or missing gear in latitude and longitude (NAD83),

  2. the date the gear was set,

  3. the date the gear was determined to be damaged or missing,

  4. a description of what gear was damaged or lost,

  5. fair market value of the damaged or missing gear. Signed and completed claim forms should be submitted to the Navigation Manager. After review by the Navigation Manager and the Hydrographic Surveys Division, the claim will be forwarded to the Office of General Counsel for formal adjudication. The adjudication process lasts approximately three to six months. ASMFC Meeting Roundup November 2014 The Lobster Management Board approved development of an Interstate FMP for Jonah crab and initiated the development of Draft Addendum XXIV to Amendment 3 to the Interstate FMP for American Lobster. The Jonah crab FMP was in response to concern about increasing fishing pressure for Jonah crab, which has long been considered a bycatch in the lobster fishery. Growing market demand has doubled landings in the past seven years. Given the absence of state and federal management programs and a stock assessment for Jonah crab, there is concern that current harvest rates may affect the resource’s sustainability. The Draft Jonah crab FMP will consider management objectives, proposed regulations, monitoring requirements, and recommendations for federal fisheries. Draft Addendum XXIV will address inconsistencies between state and federal American lobster trap transfer regulations. Options will be drafted to improve alignment between state and federal measures for full business conservation tax, trap transfer increments, and dual permits transferability rules. Draft Addendum XXIV will be presented for consideration and approval for public comment at the Commission’s winter meeting. For more information, please contact Kate Taylor, senior FMP coordinator, at ktaylor@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740. The Atlantic Herring Section received an update on the development of Draft Amendment 3 to the Atlantic herring FMP, set specifications for the 2015 fishing season (seasonal splitting), and approve a new Advisory Panel member. The Section granted the Plan Development Team additional time to complete analysis of Draft Amendment 3’s issues and management options. The Advisory Panel and Law Enforcement Committee will meet to conduct additional reviews of the draft amendment. The Section received an update on research and funding opportunities for an offshore Atlantic herring spawning study. There may be spawning data collected from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) acoustic survey, and other opportunities to collect data and spawning samples. However, the timing of the survey and spawning events may not align. Commission staff will work with NEFSC staff to exchange sample collection protocols and continue to seek funding for an offshore study. For the 2015 fishing season, the Section maintained status quo seasonal specifications for Area 1A. The fishing year will be seasonally split with 0% of the sub‐quota allocated for January 1 through May 31, 72.8% from June 1 through September 30, and 27.2% from October 1 through December 31. The Section discussed the need to better coordinate closure decisions between NMFS, state agencies, and the Commission. The Atlantic herring fishery is subject to quota‐based closures, spawning area closures, and landing prohibitions (“days out”). Furthermore, a state may have regulations specifying different times in which landings days are in effect. The Board recommended that the Commission send a letter to NMFS encouraging the agency to coordinate communications on closure regulations and ensure fishermen and law enforcement are clearly informed of any prohibitions. The Commission’s American Eel Management Board approved Addendum IV to the FMP. The Addendum establishes a 907,671 pound coastwide quota for yellow eel fisheries, reduces Maine’s glass eel quota to 9,688 pounds, and allows for the continuation of New York’s silver eel weir fishery in the Delaware River. Maine will continue to maintain daily trip level reporting in its glass eel fishery and require a pound‐for‐pound payback in the event of going over the quota. The state also will implement a fishery‐independent life cycle survey covering glass, yellow and silver eels within at least one river system. The Board’s actions respond to the 2012 benchmark stock assessment indicating the American eel population is depleted. Addendum IV is the second phase of management action in response to the stock assessment. For more information, contact Kate Taylor, senior FMP coordinator, at ktaylor@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740. Maine Dredge Team Maine’s Dredge Team met in October to discuss the status of Maine projects. Mark Habel from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) provided updates on Maine’s dredge improvement projects: Searsport Harbor The ACOE has proposed additional sampling and testing methodology developed in consultation with the EPA. The methodology has been shared with NMFS and Maine DEP for review and comment. Therefore, the ACOE has delayed until mid-February, 2015, submission to the state of its consistency determination and application for water quality certification pending completion of additional sediment sampling and testing. Piscataqua River (Portsmouth Harbor) The ACOE’s Civil Works Review Board has approved the project and ACOE has initiated the next round of review of the project. Next steps including consultation with the governors of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts; finalizing the Chief of Engineer’s report in order to secure federal funding for the project. ACOE continues to communicate with local officials in Wells and in Massachusetts about options for beneficial use of project-generated sand for beach nourishment, and with Kittery officials about beneficial use of project-generated rock. Absent a beneficial use, ACOE would consider disposal of the rock at the Cape Arundel Dump Site. Portland Harbor There has been no further discussion of deepening of the federal channel in Portland Harbor. Blue Hill This project is pending, awaiting approval by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (requested in December 2013) that is needed for the ACOE to execute a cost-sharing agreement with the Town of Blue Hill. Great Chebeague Island This project is pending, awaiting approval by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (requested in October 2014) that is needed to execute a cost-sharing agreement with Chebeague Island. The town still needs to decide on the scope of the proposed project, options for which include dredging the channel and turning basin or, alternatively, these areas plus an anchorage area. The cost of disposal at the Portland Disposal Site may be prohibitive so the project needs a disposal area in Casco Bay in order to be economically feasible. Camden Harbor The ACOE is in the preliminary stages of assessing potential work on the harbor’s inner and outer breakwaters. Saco River (Section 111 project at Camp Ellis) The ACOE and Fish and Wildlife Service have reached agreement on how to address Endangered Species Act issues connected to the project. ACOE is considering additional information needed to move forward with the project. Ed O’Donnell of ACOE provided updates on federal maintenance dredging projects in Maine which the ACOE is currently working on. Scarborough River An ACOE contractor was scheduled to resume maintenance dredging in November; the prior contractor encountered difficulties and did not complete the project last year during the fall-winter period when construction activity was allowed. Portland Harbor The ACOE completed maintenance dredging earlier this year. The project involved dredging and disposal of a lesser volume of material than estimated. An EPA enforcement action against the contractor for a dumping violation is pending. Kennebunk River The ACOE completed maintenance dredging this year. Wells Harbor The ACOE completed maintenance dredging earlier this year. The ACOE secured funds to return to the project in August to address shoaling conditions.

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