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Maine Lobstermen's Association update: January 2016

MLA Directors December Meeting Summary The MLA Directors met on December 2 in Belfast. Patrice updated the MLA Board on membership renewals. Staff is working to try to get all members renewed by the end of the year. The Board voted to offer MLA members a trip to the Boston Seafood Show (on Monday, March 7) and will look at creating other opportunities for members. The Board discussed ideas to include on MLA’s agenda for 2016, in addition to the policy issues. The Board supported continuing to push Congress for funding of new safety mandates, expand safety training opportunities in Maine, and to extend the life raft repacking requirement. MLA supported identifying solutions to the chronic Marine Patrol Officer vacancies. The Board also discussed creating community service opportunities for MLA members. The lobster fishery has been good to Maine lobstermen and it would be good to look at ways for the industry to give back such as through beach and coastal cleanups. The Board discussed plans for the MLA Annual meeting to be held Friday, March 4 at 9 a.m. at the start of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum held at the Samoset Resort. The Board voted to mail all MLA voting members a postcard soliciting nominations for open board seats. The Annual Meeting notice and board nominee form will run in the December and January issues of Landings. Bob Baines and David Cousens will attend ASMFC Lobster Advisory Panel in December. Research has suggested that ghost panels do not release lobsters in a timely manner, so ASMFC is looking for ways to make ghost panels more effective. MLA Directors do not support any changes to using biodegradable hog rings to attach panels; this should be left alone. The board was open to discussions about making the opening larger if scientists determine this is necessary for oversized lobsters to escape, especially in the offshore fishery. Patrice provided the board with several updates: The Take Reduction Team met via webinar in November. NMFS uses a different methodology than the New England Aquarium to estimate the number of right whales. The NMFS estimate is 491 right whales; the New England Aquarium estimate is 526. NMFS reported seven new right whale entanglements in 2014 (two died, one was no longer entangled) and four new right whale entanglements in 2015 (one no longer entangled). NMFS provided an update on whale plan enforcement efforts which show a 96% compliance rate. Enforcement efforts included 745 at-sea vessel hours and 723 contacts with fishermen of which 692 were lobstermen, 12 gillnet fishermen and 19 other gear. The majority of checks (406) were in Area 1. There were 28 violations cited which included wet storage, unmarked buoys and missing weak links. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative met in November. The staff provided an update on work to date and the board discussed its 2016 marketing plan. The MLMC will continue to expand its social media campaign and outreach with chefs to promote Maine new shell lobster. Matt Jacobson is making the rounds to update lobstermen on MLMC’s work through zone council and industry meetings. He will be at MLA meeting in January. The DMR online licensing system is still under development. Licenses can still be obtained by downloading the form from DMR’s web site or going to DMR. The online system will be available soon. Zone C met in November and voted to table taking action on closing the zone. LR 2423 An Act to Improve Maine’s Lobster Licensing and Limited-entry System will move forward when the Legislature reconvenes. The text of the bill is not expected until January. DMR has stated that the bill will include 1) changing exit ratio currency to licenses in all zones; 2) increasing the age that a student can obtain a commercial license to 23, 3) creating a new limited commercial license at a lower cost with fewer tags and 4) allowing anyone who has built up to 800 traps to purchase only the tags they need each year (no more 100/year increase if you reduce tags). MLA Directors received a summary of license and tag data for each zone, broken down by age, prepared by MLA staff. They discussed the provisions of the bill, but will wait for the full text before taking a position on this legislation. MLA Board and staff will attend zone councils meetings to hear additional industry feedback. The MLA remains opposed to taking away power from the zone councils. MLA tentative 2016 meetings schedule: First Wed. of the month (except March and November), and no meeting in August.

Lobster Advisory Council The Lobster Advisory Council met on November 30 in Augusta. DMR Science Bureau Chief Carl Wilson presented an overview of the results of the ASMFC’s recent lobster stock assessment. The stock assessment results are positive for the Gulf of Maine: the resource is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. The stock assessment uses a computer model developed by the University of Maine which looks at catch, size of lobster, spawning stock biomass, population size, recruitment and exploitation rates. The assessment also uses several stock indicators, independent of the model, to look at trends in abundance mortality and fishery performance. This assessment differs from previous stock assessments in that it combines the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank stocks into a single biological unit. DMR staff briefly reviewed feedback from the lobster zone councils on the draft goals for the Lobster Fishery Management Plan. The LAC will discuss this further at a future meeting. DMR announced that it is moving forward with a double tagging requirement for all lobstermen, regardless of home zone. Any lobstermen fishing traps outside his home zone would need to place a second tag in those traps. The purpose of the double tagging requirement is to assist marine patrol in implementing the 49% limit on the amount of gear that can be fished outside a home zone. This is expected to be in place for the 2017 fishing season. DMR told the LAC that the online licensing portal is not yet operational but that it is expected to be working soon. DMR Marine Patrol Major Rene Cloutier updated the LAC that the DMR has contracted with Tyden Brooks (formerly Stoffel Seals) for 2016 trap tags. DMR is no longer providing replacement tags for tags cut out of gear because those can be hog ringed into a new trap. DMR is still providing 10% replacement tags for lost gear and tags for catastrophic losses. The Marine Patrol is still struggling with attracting and retaining officers, and has several vacancies along the coast. DMR Policy Director Deirdre Gilbert gave an update on upcoming legislation. The bill to address the lobster licensing system is moving forward. Commissioner Keliher wants all zones to be able to discuss the bill before the Marine Resources Committee holds public hearings in 2016. Rep. Walter Kumiega, chair of the committee, stated that that may not be possible given the demands of the legislative calendar. He expects the public hearings to be held in early February, with the Committee completing its work by mid-March. The bill is not expected to be printed before late January. Sarah Cotnoir updated the LAC on two DMR rulemakings. The Kittery area wants to amend their triples area to allow trawls to be fished from January 1 through April 10. Chebeague Island is seeking to end its Island Limited Entry Program. She also reminded lobstermen that Jeffreys Ledge and Jordan Basin have additional gear marking requirements in place, as part of the whale rules. Matt Jacobson provided an update on the MLMC’s work to date and plans for 2016. Their marketing efforts to promote Maine new shell lobster are focused on social media and chefs. The MLMC is also implementing a program to track the success of its initiatives. The final promotion surcharge will be in place for the 2016 licensing year and will remain in place through 2018 when the MLMC authorization goes back to the Legislature for renewal.

DMR Summary of Proposed Lobster Licensing changes Prepared by DMR for discussion at zone council meetings in December, 2015 Proposed Changes to entry Return to using licenses to calculate the entry/exit ratios (eliminate option to use tags)

  1. The ratio number would continue to be developed through the Zone Council process – 5:1, 3:1, 1:1, etc. Raise the age by which a student must have completed the apprenticeship program from “before the age 18” to “before the age of 23” in order to get a license without going on the waiting list.

  2. This will only apply to individuals who begin the apprenticeship program before they turn 18.

  3. Individuals who are currently on the waiting list, but who met the above criteria would be eligible to get a license (it would be retroactive).

  4. The extra time (after age 18 and before age 23) is only available if you have your high school diploma or GED.

  5. The requirement to be a student after the age of 18 would be waived if you have your diploma or GED (people would not be required to continue on to college if they did not want to). For islands participating in the Island Limited Entry Program (currently Monhegan, Cliff, Frenchboro and the Cranberry Isles – Chebeague is withdrawing) would waive the requirement that a license holder have apprenticed in that Zone to obtain an island license. Proposed actions to address latency Create a “Limited Commercial” license that is eligible for fewer tags (300 instead of 800) but is less expensive (half price).

  6. Existing ½ price license for over 70 would be eliminated

  7. Voluntary – no one will be required to buy, personal choice only

  8. No age requirement to be able to buy the license

  9. Once you “drop down” to the Limited Commercial, can’t go back up to the full Commercial – that license is always limited to the lower tag amount

  10. License will be counted toward the exit/entry ratio when it exits the fishery. Eliminate the limitation on increasing tags by 100 per year for all license holder who have already reached 800 tags – once you have purchased 800, could drop down to a lower number and then back to 800 without going up 100 tags per year.

Lobster Zone Council Meetings DMR completed a round of zone council meetings during November and December. The meeting agenda covered the lobster stock assessment, marine patrol news, double tagging, Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative activities and whale rules as described in the LAC summary above. In addition, zone councils signed their bylaws and gave brief district updates. Most districts reported that many lobstermen have taken up gear and it has been a good season. A smaller number continue to fish with gear offshore. Each lobster zone, except Zone C, discussed the DMR’s proposal for changes to the licensing system. The proposal was not available in November when Zone C met. Feedback was mixed, with little to no support for the proposal as a whole. There was some support for individual pieces, but most support was offered for improvements. The Zone D Council does not want the Legislature to take power away from the zones and did not support DMR’s proposal. Zone G was concerned that the proposal does not deal with zone transfers who are on the waiting list. Zone E saw merit in increasing the age that student license holders can obtain a commercial license to age 23 and did not oppose changing the exit ratio currency from tags to licenses. They also supported creating a requirement for those on the waiting list to renew annually. Some Zone F Council members expressed concern that this proposal would take power away from the zones; others supported increasing the age of the student license but only if the state required those in the program to be enrolled as students. Other Zone F Council members supported the creation of a Limited Commercial license, but only with a trap limit of 500 and only if the retired tags are used to help those on the waiting list. Zone C reviewed the results of a recent questionnaire on whether or not to close the zone. The questionnaire received a 38% response rate, with 66% in favor of closing the zone asnd 34% opposed. Only two districts (District 6, North Haven and District 9, Matinicus and Criehaven) supported keeping the zone open. The Zone C Council tabled action until a future meeting. Zone E also reviewed the results of a recent survey that was conducted on changing the zone’s currency from tags to licenses and possibly changing the ratio. The question on what exit ratio should be used to control entry received a 37% response rate. Of those who responded, 38% chose 5:1 using tags, 25% chose 3:1 using licenses, 13% chose 5:1 using licenses, and 9.5% chose 3:1 using tags. Some Zone E lobsterman have signed a petition asking the Zone E Council to consider increasing the trap limit from 600 to 700. Action on both of these items was tabled to the next meeting due to lack of quorum.

DMR RulemakingChapter 25.04 Lobster Trawl Limits This proposed rule provides a seasonal exemption to the existing three-trap-per-trawl limit for a specified area within and around the Piscataqua River, allowing up to 10 traps per trawl from January 1 to April 10. This change is requested by Zone G lobstermen fishing in this area to improve gear handling and minimize gear loss during the winter months. Chapter 25.97 Management Framework for Island Limited Entry Program The proposed regulation also strikes Chebeague Island from the list of islands participating in the Island Limited Entry Program. The Chebeague Island Limited Entry Committee requested a referendum be conducted to assess whether license holders on Chebeague supported the continuation of the program. Of those voting, 83% supported eliminating the program. After reviewing the referendum results, the Chebeague Island Limited Entry Committee requested the Commissioner undertake rule-making to terminate the Chebeague Island Limited Entry Program.

Inflatable Vessel to help Maine Improve Whale Disentanglement Efforts DMR announced that is has received a $20,000 grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund to purchase a 17-foot soft bottom inflatable boat to respond more quickly, safely and effectively to whale entanglement events. “This boat will help Marine Patrol significantly improve our ability to respond to entanglements,” said Major Rene Cloutier, Marine Patrol’s Field Commander. “Our fleet of vessels is built to respond to law enforcement issues, but is not ideally suited for disentangling whales. We need a boat that is smaller, more stable, is more maneuverable when we work on large species like humpbacks and right whales.” Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine are currently the only states on the East Coast with the authority and training from NMFS to respond to large whale entanglements. One DMR staff member and nine Marine Patrol officers are trained and authorized as first responders for entanglements. The network of responders on the east coast, known as the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network, is coordinated by NMFS out of its Gloucester, Massachusetts, office. “This work is conducted very close to the whale and a soft bottom boat will allow us to maneuver into positon so the responders can more easily move around in the boat and handle the specialty tools which are mounted on the end of a long pole and used to cut lines from the whales,” said DMR Scientist Erin Summers, who is coordinating the purchase. “This boat will help Maine continue to improve our efficiency and performance in disentanglement response,” she said.


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