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Maine Lobstermen’s Association update: July 2015


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MLA Directors Meeting The MLA Directors met on June 3 in Belfast. The MLA has a Committee looking into vessel insurance options to ensure the association is offering the best program to its members. The Committee updated the board on its work to date, and will continue to explore options and discuss at the July meeting. Amy Lent, Director of Maine Maritime Museum, updated the MLA Board on the new lobster exhibit which opens in July. They are still looking for buoys and stories from lobstermen, especially from York County. The exhibit opens to the public on Sunday, July 26. The Board reviewed the draft goals and objectives for the Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by DMR. The Lobster Advisory Council has reviewed them, and DMR is in the process of getting feedback from the zone councils. The MLA Directors had no initial concerns with the Goals and Objectives of the plan, but will take some time to look them over more carefully. Overall, they are reflective of the fishery and do not over-reach. The MLA Directors believe the real work will happen this fall when the DMR explores potential management changes in response to triggers. The Board was more concerned with the potential outcome of discussions to reform lobster licensing and entry. The Commissioner will hold 10 meetings in September to get feedback from the industry; DMR has committed to submit a bill for consideration by the Legislature. The Marine Resources Committee has also committed to tackling this issue next session. The Board acknowledged that waiting lists are long, and there is no way to predict how long it will take to get into the fishery. However, the overarching sentiment was that radical reform is not needed; instead, we should look at working with the tools we already have in place to move the waiting lists along. MLA plans to weigh in on the DMR’s proposals once they are available for comment. DMR is also seeking feedback from the industry on whether to make double tagging of lobster traps fished outside a home zone a statewide requirement; and whether to explore the notion of creating an offshore lobster zone. The MLA Board will continue to monitor these discussions. The MLA discussed the Army Corps application to Maine DEP to receive a state water quality permit for the federal dredging project. MLA Directors noted that the association has not taken a formal position on any of the recent dredges including Portland and the Royal River, or the recent applications such as Beals/Pig Island Gut or York. MLA will continue to monitor the process to ensure that the state and Army Corps are responsive and accountable to concerns expressed by lobstermen on this issue. MLA Directors were reminded that vertical line rules (minimum trawling up requirements) and new gear marking (three 12” marks) took effect on June 1. A summary is available on the MLA website. DMR is working on getting coordinates translated to loran and will get that out to the industry. A special gear marking area around Jeffreys (red and green) and Jordan Basin (red and purple), put in place to avoid a seasonal fishing closure, are effective September 1. MLA partnered with Fishing Partnership Support Services to offer free safety training in Portland in May. The training attracted over 50 participants and was a huge success. Lobstermen are reminded that anyone fishing in federal waters must have a safety decal on their vessel in October. Don’t wait! MLA membership renewal will happen in July and August. If you join by September 15, you will be entered to win $500 cash prize. The MLA Board will meet again on July 1 at Darby’s in Belfast.

ASMFC Jonah Crab Plan The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is accepting public comment on the Draft Jonah Crab FMP until July 24. The draft plan sets goals and objectives, and proposed measures for permits including options for a lobster/crab permit and a crab only permit, spawning stock biomass protections such as minimum size, non‐trap limits, and data collection elements. ASMFC has already set a control date for the fishery; those who enter the fishery after the control date may be treated differently. Jonah crab has long been considered a bycatch of the lobster industry, but in recent years there has been increasing targeted fishing pressure and growing market demand for crab. The majority of crab are harvested by lobster fishermen using lobster traps. Since the early 2000s, landings have increased 6.48 fold. With the increase in demand for crab, a mixed crustacean fishery has emerged that can target both lobster or crab or both at different times of year based on slight legal modifications to the gear and small shifts in the areas in which traps are fished. The mixed nature of the fishery makes it difficult to manage a Jonah crab fishery completely separate from the American lobster fishery without impacting the number of vertical lines and traps capable of catching lobster in state and federal waters. The Jonah Crab fishery landed approximately 17 million pounds in 2014 with 70% of landings from Massachusetts, 24% from Rhode Island, 4.5% from New Hampshire and Maine and 1.5% from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland.

ASMFC Herring Plan The ASMFC’s Atlantic Herring Section has withdrawn Draft Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan from public consideration in order to further develop the proposed spawning protection measures. Draft Amendment 3 addresses three major issues: spawning protection measures, fixed gear set‐aside provisions, and requirements to empty fish holds. Section members expressed concern about the highly technical nature of the proposed measures and the potential impacts of these measures to the fishing industry. The Draft Amendment will be held until August to gather more information to clearly define the goal of spawning protections, describe proposed methodologies and measures in a way that is understandable to the fishing industry and stakeholders, and detail the benefits and impacts of spawning closures to the resource. It is anticipated that the draft Amendment will be approved in November, and released for public comment, with final plan approval scheduled for February 2016.

ASMFC Shrimp Plan The ASMFC Shrimp Section met in June in Portland, ME to review the public information document (PID) and draft amendment to the shrimp plan. The Section discussed the PID issue by issue and gave direction to the Plan Development Team (PDT) for various options to include in Draft Amendment III for public comment, starting with the goals and objectives of the current Fishery Management Plan. Section members identified the need to include an objective that directly addresses the management of participation to promote long term fishery sustainability. Some Section members expressed considerable concern regarding a limited entry program because of the high number of license holders in the fishery, and state regulatory procedures that would make it difficult to implement a limited entry program. Other Section members expressed a state‐legislature should not influence the Sections decision making, and limited entry should still be considered as a viable management option. The Section tasked the PDT to develop limited entry and state‐by‐state allocation management options in Draft Amendment III for public comment. The Section was explicit about including license capping and fixed percentage share program options and time frames be consistent across all options. The PDT will also develop license transferability options, a license capping option using attrition as means of reducing licenses, TAC overage options that would not penalize those states that fished within their allocation, and a projecting season closure program. The PDT, in collaboration with the Technical Committee (TC), will develop language for how to set the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) under Draft Amendment III in the absence of biological reference points. Additionally, the PDT will develop and include multi‐year specification options that allow the section to set various regulations (e.g., TAC, trip and trap limits, season dates, and RSA) for multiple years as opposed to one year at a time. Other management options to be included in the draft amendment are defined season options reflecting egg hatch timing, gear‐specific seasons, state‐specific seasons, and area‐divided management units (i.e., dividing the coast into area‐specific management units). Also, mandatory use of size sorting grates options will be developed since the AP, TC, Section, and public all tend to agree protecting egg bearing shrimp is vital to the existence of a viable fishery.

Federal Observer Program The New England lobster fishery is required to carry federal observers this year under the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) program. Maine lobstermen who hold both a federal lobster permit and a multispecies permit are required to host an observer. The vessel must have a Coast Guard safety decal to carry an observer. The observer will conduct a safety inspection in addition to biologically sampling onboard. Approximately 80 boats in Maine fall into this category, and will share the 200 observer trips planned for this year. There are concerns about the redundancy of this federal program with the existing state sea sampling program. MLA is working with other lobster industry groups to better understand this issue, and urge the federal agency to work with state sampling programs.

Lobster zone council summary The lobster zone councils met in May and June (Zones F and G after the deadline for this publication). At each meeting members heard from Department of Marine Resources (DMR) representatives on the the whale regulations that went into effect on June 1, the results of the Legislative session, options concerning double tagging of traps, and other matters. In addition, in each zone members discussed the concept of setting up an offshore lobster zone outside the 12 nautical mile line. The subject that garnered the most discussion at all meetings, however, was development by the department of a fisheries management plan for lobster. Zone E council members voted to hold a referendum on changes the entry/exit requirement: from trap tags retired to licenses retired. The change would result in a 3:1 ratio for licenses rather than the current 5:1 ratio for tags. Zone C council members tabled a decision on whether to close the zone to new lobstermen. Instead, members agreed to send out a nonbinding questionnaire asking lobstermen whether or not they wanted to see the zone closed. The purpose of the questionnaire is to provide direct feedback to council members prior to the next meeting in the fall. Zones A and B as well as C discussed the confusion concerning the Hancock county trawling up requirements under the federal whale rules. In that area, the state says that triples are the maximum length of a trawl; federal rules say that triples are the minimum length for a trawl. Zone B council members called for clarification of this matter. In Zone D council members voted to send a letter to DMR expressing concern about adverse impacts that may arise from the proposed dredging project in Searsport harbor. Members in all the zone councils expressed confusion about the two initiatives underway at DMR: the first is development of a fishery management plan for lobster and the second is creation of a bill that addresses the issues of licenses and long waiting lists to enter the fishery. DMR will be holding meetings with lobstermen in September to discuss more thoroughly options for the proposed legislation. Some council members were puzzled that the department was trying to plan for possible additional controls on lobster fishing in the future when it was also exploring ways to get more people off the waiting lists and into the fishery. Despite the confusion, members generated good suggestions to DMR representatives concerning development of the FMP.

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