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Maine Lobstermen’s Association update: February 2015

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MLA Directors Meetings The MLA Directors met on January 7. They reviewed the list of bill titles from the Legislature available to date, though the details of the bills were not available. DMR has a few bills in, one of which will seek to gain additional authority to aid in enforcement, especially in the offshore areas. Rep. Kumiega put forward a bill which could extent the fishing day in the fall and others looking at licensing and latent effort. The members of the Joint Committee on Marine Resources are almost entirely new this session; MLA staff and as many directors as possible plan to attend a “Meet and Greet” with the committee. The directors discussed the NEFMC (the Council) Omnibus Habitat Amendment. Patrice will make comments at the public hearing in Portland and submit MLA’s written comments to the Council. Those comments will emphasize the lobster industry’s concern that lobster gear might be excluded from closed areas in the future; oppose any opening of existing closures, especially Closed Area II, which contains more than one-third of the Gulf of Maine’s egg-bearing lobsters at certain times of year; oppose the eastern Maine closures; and oppose any measures that would undermine the diversity of Maine’s small boat fishing fleet. The directors discussed the success of the 2014 lobster season in stark contrast to the 2012 season. They talked about how the industry might become proactive in replicating the 2014 season in future years by not oversupplying the market during the summer shed and landing quality, shippable lobster. The directors identified several important factors which should guide discussion, namely that lobstermen don’t want to be told that they can’t fish and the industry needs something predictable that they can count on each year. Patrice will be attending the Take Reduction Team (TRT) meeting in January to support Maine’s proposal to extend the ¼ mile buffer in the whale rules to additional islands in Penobscot Bay and the Isles of Shoals. The MLA will not oppose Massachusetts’ efforts to fish singles in state waters, but will strongly oppose the proposal from the conservation community to implement a seasonal closure of Jeffrey’s Ledge and Jordan’s Basin to protect whales. Maine’s Commercial Fishing Safety Council’s January meeting was postponed due to a lack of quorum. MLA will attend the next meeting to discuss MLA’s interest in changing Coast Guard regulations that require repacking a life raft every year, rather than every two years as was the rule before. Revere has several life rafts that the manufacturer states need only to be repacked every three years, which seems to conflict with Coast Guard rules. The directors discussed details of the MLA Annual Meeting on March 6 at 9 a.m. at the Samoset Resort, as well as other details of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. The next directors meeting will be held on February 4 at Noon at Darby’s. University of Maine researchers will present their studies on cod and cusk barotrauma. The MLA Directors also met on December 3. Terry Stockwell from DMR reviewed the Council’s Habitat Amendment. MLA expressed concern over the potential for lobster traps to be excluded from closed areas and noted that the Habitat Amendment was expansive, making it difficult to determine how the various options might affect Maine. Terry also urged MLA to monitor the Council’s coral management plan which could impact the lobster industry. The ASMFC Jonah crab plan will go to public hearing in March and be voted on in April. It is specific to Jonah crab, not rock crab, and will manage based on minimum size and/or sex. Regarding this winter’s shrimp survey, Arnie Gamage recommended that DMR conduct part of the survey with traps to get information on spawning status along the coast, and also allow the trapped shrimp to be sold. Amy Lent, Chris Hall and Nathan Lipfert from the Maine Maritime Museum updated the directors on the progress of the lobster exhibit, due to open in the summer of 2015. The Museum wants to incorporate lobstermen’s personal stories into the new exhibit. They are asking lobstermen to contribute a freshly-painted lobster buoy and tell on video or in writing the story of their lobster boat, how it was named, where they fish and how long they’ve been fishing, and any other information they are comfortable sharing. The Museum would also like to acquire a lobster boat typical of those used by the industry today. It would be tax deductible based on the appraised value. Directors urged MMM to contact banks on foreclosed boats. The Museum is also looking for an historic gauge, 10.5” in total length, from the 1800s.

Preliminary Menhaden Assessment Results are Positive The ASMFC released the 2014 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment and will discuss the document at its winter meeting in February. While the assessment and its results are not final, the initial results are positive. A new model was developed, dividing the fishery into northern and southern components, as well as bait and reduction components. According to the draft benchmark stock assessment and based on the current reference points, the stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.

Good News on Whale Rules from TRT The TRT, which advises NMFS on the large whale plan, met in January in Providence, R.I. Maine’s contingent included Patrice McCarron and Dwight Carver from the MLA, Jim Tripp from Spruce Head and Terry Stockwell from DMR. DMR staff Sarah Cotnoir and Erin Summers also attended. The MLA was the only Maine lobster industry organization that attended the meeting. Maine submitted a proposal to amend the whale plan to expand the ¼ mile buffer, which allow setting singles, to all the Penobscot Bay islands (including Metinic, Wooden Ball, Seal, and Greens) in addition to those island already included (Monhegan, Criehaven, Matinicus). Additionally, Maine requested that this buffer include the Maine portion of the Isles of Shoals. Those fishing singles in the Isles of Shoals buffer will have to add an additional unique mark because of their proximity to whales on Jeffrey’s Ledge. The conservation groups attending the meeting made a strong push to adopt seasonal fishing closures on Jeffrey’s Ledge and Jordan Basin as part of the whale plan. In the end, a compromise was reached which will require anyone lobstering in those proposed closure areas to specially mark their endlines, thus indicating that the trap was fished there. The TRT is forming a subcommittee to look at how to have a conservation equivalency for boats with unique safety concerns when complying with the whale plan, such as those who do not feel they can fish the minimum trawl requirements.

DMR Rulemaking

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Lobster Trap Reductions (But not in Maine!)American Lobster Permit Holders (Areas 2, 3, 4, and 5) NMFS has approved a final rule that implements conservation measures for the Southern New England stock of American lobster, as recommended by the ASMFC. NMFS will implement the following conservation measures beginning on May 1, 2015: Area 2: Mandatory v-notching of egg-bearing female lobsters; Area 3: Minimum carapace size increase to 3 17/32 inches; Area 4: Mandatory v-notching of egg-bearing female lobsters, and an annual seasonal closure from February 1 through March 31 (beginning in 2016); and Area 5: Mandatory v-notching of egg-bearing female lobsters, and an annual seasonal closure from February 1 through March 31 (beginning in 2016). In addition, NMFS will implement a series of annual trap reductions for Areas 2 and 3, beginning with fishing year 2016. The first reduction will take effect on April 30, 2016, just prior to the start of fishing year, and every year after following the schedule below.

trap chart


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