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Meeting Roundup: April 2011

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) meeting, March 21-24, Alexandria, Virginia The ASMFC’s American Lobster Board met to review Draft Addendum XVII, created to reduce exploitation in the southern New England (SNE) lobster stock by 50 or 75%. The Draft Addendum evaluated many input and output control measures, including limited entry, trap limits, minimum and maximum sizes, escape vents, mandatory female v-notch requirements, a male-only fishery, closed seasons, closed areas, and quota-based landing limits. The current version of the Draft Addendum has a two-phase approach to initiate SNE stock rebuilding. The preferred option is to use input controls for two to four years, with the intent that all jurisdictions shift to uniformly enforceable long-term management tools. The Board also discussed the significant impact a 50 to 75% reduction would have on the lobster fishery. Due to this impact, a proposal for a 25 and 50% reduction in traps was presented and added to Draft Addendum XVII. A separate Draft Addendum (XVIII) was developed to address the Area 3 Lobster Conservation Management Team’s proposed plan for LCMA 3. The Board reviewed the draft addendum which includes a trap reduction plan and changes to the Area 3 transferability plan. It won’t take action on this addendum until after finalizing Addendum XVII. The Atlantic Herring Section reviewed the status of the 2010 fishery. Preliminary landings based on a comparison of IVR and VTR data suggest that there were no overages in Area 1A and 1B as was previously thought. Final landing figures should be available during the summer. The Section also considered Draft Addendum III, which proposed to allocate one or two additional landing days to small mesh bottom trawl and small purse seine vessels per week during weeks with days-out restrictions. Section members reviewed public comment and input from its Technical Committee, Advisory Panel, and Law Enforcement Committee on the proposed measures. Following deliberation, a motion to adopt provisions in the Draft Addendum failed due to lack of a majority vote. The Shad and River Herring Management Board received an update on federal waters shad and river herring bycatch management measures currently being developed through the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) Draft Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Herring Fisheries Management Plan and an update on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (MAFMC) Draft Amendment 14 to the Squid, Mackerel, and Butterfish FMP. At the NEFMC Meeting in February, options for a portside monitoring program and “move-along” rule were removed from the Draft Amendment 5, while an option for consideration of a bycatch cap and development of shad and river herring “catch triggers” were added to the document. At the MAFMC meeting in February, options for a portside monitoring program were also removed from Draft Amendment 14 while options for 100% observer coverage and a river herring and/or shad mortality cap were advanced for further analysis. The Atlantic Menhaden Management Board initiated a draft addendum proposing an interim biological reference point of 15% maximum spawning potential (MSP). The MSP approach identifies the fishing mortality rate necessary to maintain a given level of stock fecundity. The current MSP level is 9%. The draft addendum will also include a suite of management measures to achieve 15% MSP. The Board gave high priority to developing ecosystem reference points using a multispecies modeling approach. Ecosystem reference points are expected to include the needs of menhaden’s predator species, such as striped bass, weakfish, and bluefish.

Large Whale Take Reduction Team A work group of the Northeast Large Whale Take Reduction (TRT) met on March 9 in Scituate, MA to work on refinements to the co-occurrence model. NMFS is working with this subgroup of the TRT to identify potential management areas based on the co-occurrence model, which shows areas where there is a greater overlap between vertical lines and whales. The model will be used to determine areas which represent the greatest chance an entanglement could occur at certain times of year. These areas will used in developing alternatives to address large whale entanglements resulting from Interactions with endlines from commercial trap/pot fisheries. The TRT decided to use co-occurrence model when identifying potential management areas, provided that certain refinements were made, during the November 2010 meeting. The co-occurrence model uses more than 30 years of whale sightings data (1978-2010) from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, which includes sightings data on right, humpback and fin whales by month, yearly average and season. This is the most comprehensive data set on whale sightings and reflects effort to look for whales in nearly all areas of the Gulf of Maine, in most months of the year. The model uses data on the number of vertical lines and gear configuration data from 2008 and will incorporate data from 2009 and 2010 fishing seasons as it becomes available. Data for the Maine lobster fishery was provided by Maine DMR, supplemented with federal vessel trip reporting (VTR) data. The subgroup agreed to limit the scope of the modeling efforts to focus on only right and humpback whales. Fins will not be incorporated in the analysis. The preliminary results of the co-occurrence model show a corridor in lobster management Area 1 (LMA1) about 15-20 miles offshore, just outside the 50F curve and spanning the entire coast of Maine. This offshore area was identified by the model as an area where both whales and fishing gear are present in certain months of the year, and will likely be prioritized for management. The model roughly shows this offshore corridor to be important east of Schoodic from July through October; from Pemaquid to Schoodic from October through January; and from Gloucester to Pemaquid from January to April and October to December. There are other areas identified in Massachusetts such as Cape Cod and Mass Bays and the Great South Channel in certain months. For Maine, this offshore corridor does not represent a significant density of vertical lines when compared to inshore areas, so it is difficult to envision what sort of management measures will be moved forward to reduce risk to whales, or how seasonal measures might be used. The model does not identify state waters which have high densities of vertical lines as a priority for management, due to the lack of whale sightings. The Maine lobster industry will need to consider what size management areas make sense and in what seasons, relative the number of vertical lines that can be reduced when whales are present off of the Maine coast. At the November 2010 TRT meeting, NMFS put forward several potential management scenarios for consideration, and showed the amount of endlines the model predicted would removed from the water if applied to all state and federal Area 1 lobstermen.

  1. Minimum three trap trawls with one endline (14% endline reduction)

  2. Minimum five trap trawls with one endline (29% reduction)

  3. Minimum 10 trap trawls with one endline (62% reduction)

  4. Minimum 10 trap trawls with two endlines (37% reduction)

  5. April to June closure (100% reduction during closure)

  6. September to December closure (100% reduction during closure). NMFS will use these management scenarios, the areas identified through the co-occurrence model, and any management scenarios put forward by the states or fishing industry, as part of its scoping meetings that it intends to hold throughout the late summer (2011) along the Atlantic coast. The scoping meetings will provide the general public and fishermen a forum to share any new ideas that were not identified by NMFS or the TRT. NMFS intends to hold meetings in Machias, Ellsworth, Rockland and Portland. Ultimately, NMFS will compile all of the information gathered from the scoping meetings along with all constituent-based proposals and review these potential alternatives with the full TRT at its November/December 2011 meeting. At that time, the TRT will make recommendations to NMFS concerning the suite of alternatives that NMFS should consider along with its recommendation for its preferred alternative. The final whale rule is expected to be implemented in 2014.

Lobster Zone Council meetings Zone E lobster council met on March 2. Rep. Bruce MacDonald attended. Members heard from Carl Wilson, Department of Marine Resources (DMR) on the status of lobster stocks in southern New England and the ASMFC process. Sarah Cotnoir, DMR, gave an update of the TRT meeting, the Lobster Advisory Council (LAC) meeting, and the island limited entry program. Members signed the by-laws. Members discussed at length the shrimp fishery, expressing concerns about the increase in the number of shrimp traps and possible gear conflicts with shrimp boats. They also discussed the Public Information Document (PID) for shrimp. They also reviewed bill before the state legislature, including LD 244 (no support), LD 307 (two against, all others for, and LD 371 (no support). Two new license holders will be joining the zone this year (Zone E has a 5:1 entry ratio). Zone D council met on March 7. Rep. Chuck Kruger attended. Members signed the by-laws. They discussed the TRT update given by Cotnoir and its implications, noting that lobstermen can still provide input into any vertical line proposals. Members reviewed pending bills, including LR 1389 (no support), LD 307 (no support), LD 371 (no support) and LR 1270 (no support). Cotnoir also gave an update on the island limited entry program and the LAC meeting. Zone D’s representative to the Zone C council gave a brief summary of Zone C’s desire to consider further discussion of double tagging. Zone B council met on March 21. Rep. Walter Kumiega attended. Cotnoir gave members an update on the TRT and LAC meetings. Members discussed the PID for shrimp. Then discussion turned to the island limited entry program. Swan’s Island’s representative said that the island would like to go from 74 license holders to 80. He stated the number of full, part-time, and non-active licenses on the island, as well as the number of students (13) and those on the waiting list (6). The representative from the Cranberry Islands said that they want to go from 21 licenses to 23 licenses. There is one person on the waiting list currently. There was much discussion about the implications of additional licenses in that zone. John Niccoli, who has a demonstration license, told the members that he wants to experiment using alternative bait in the zone this summer. Members had no problem with that. After hearing about LD 307, members voted not to support it. They discussed both shrimp and scallop fishing in their area. The council will hold another meeting in April to continue discussion of the two island limited entry proposals.

MLA Annual Meeting The Maine Lobstermen’s Association held its annual meeting on Friday, March 4, during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. MLA’s clerk, Clayton Howard asked to waive reading of past minutes, and the minutes were unanimously adopted by MLA members. MLA’s director, Patrice McCarron, introduced MLA’s staff members:  Heather Tetreault, whale projects coordinator, Melissa Waterman, communications coordinator, Annie Tselikis, education coordinator, April Gilmore, education assistant and Sarah Paquette, communications assistant. Patrice gave a review of the MLA’s membership survey results which identify what members identified as priority issues for the association in 2011. Bait was once again the top priority at 58%, followed by whale rules (51%), price of lobster (38%), and marketing (36%). The membership survey delved deeper into the marketing issue. When asked how a marketing effort should be organized for Maine lobster, 57% supported creation of a new marketing organization while 29% thought marketing should be left to the private sector. Concerning how a marketing organization should be funded, 51% responded that a combination of lobstermen, dealers and harvesters should pay, while 24% believed it should be funded through outside sources such as government. Members further indicated cost and lack of industry support are the biggest challenges to marketing Maine lobster. DMR Commissioner Norman Olsen addressed the MLA as the keynote speaker. The commissioner introduced himself and provided an overview of his past work experiences which ranged from the seafood industry to the U.S. Foreign Service. He then took questions from members. What is your vision for lobster management in next few years?  The commissioner responded that he didn’t think anything was needed to make the lobster resource more sustainable. However, there is a layering of regulation upon regulation. The commissioner said, “Frankly I don’t think it’s necessary but I’m not going to dismantle it.” He did say that the lack of a clear mechanism for transferring licenses will be a major problem. Olsen stated, “You all need to think about some sort of mechanism to transfer boat licenses and exit the industry. I don’t want a lottery.” The FDA warning on tomalley has hurt lobster sales. Why doesn’t Canada have a warning? Olsen responded that the solution might be an area certification showing that lobsters from that area are free of PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning, also known as red tide). DMR staff are working with the delegation and staff scientists on this issue. So how do you feel about the zone councils? Olsen said that he was not interested in dismantling the zone council system; he is here to help them, not them to help him. He sees his job as facilitating and mitigating conflict. He noted that if required by the law, or if through rulemaking he finds something to be “unreasonable,” he will stand against it. What information is coming in about herring abundance coming year? Olsen said he had no new information on that. Presently the DMR is focused on shrimp; next on the agenda will be herring. He noted, “It’s a key issue.” How do you see the Maine Lobster Promotion Council working in future? Olsen responded that he hasn’t gotten into it yet. His personal view is industry needs to take the lead on marketing with support from the DMR. What do you think about federal government regulations regarding whale rope? Olsen answered that the state needs to be there when the parameters of the discussion are set, not afterwards. What good is spending all that DMR money on statistics? The Commissioner responded that if we don’t have data then we can’t manage the fishery. Without data you can’t defend yourself when people say you are doing something wrong. Data is very important. Is the lobster industry moving towards ITQs? Olsen said, “No, but you should see the number of letters that come across my desk from lobstermen wanting to move their license to their kids. I don’t want bloodline transfer. The transfer mechanism must be fair and equitable.” What do you think about the presence of frozen bait because of lack of herring? Olsen answered that he thinks it’s nuts to be importing bait from other places. He believes that we should fish for bait, such as redfish, in this state. This would provide bait and bring jobs back to Portland. Olsen added that he is a big believer in catch shares and stated that it is the only way to bring some degree of certainty into the groundfish system. A Massachusetts lobsterman challenged him on catch shares. The commissioner responded that the past groundfish regulations did not work and said that if fishermen are going to survive, they all must become businessmen. MLA president David Cousens thanked Commissioner Olsen for addressing the membership. MLA clerk Clayton Howard called for the annual election and put forward the following slate for election to a three-year term on the Board of Directors:

  1. Shane Carter, Bar Harbor

  2. Dwight Carver, Beals

  3. Jason Joyce, Swans Island

  4. Brain McLain, New Harbor

  5. Michael Myrick, Cushing

  6. Brad Parady, Kittery

  7. Donald Young, Cushing The slate was unanimously approved. The MLA conducted its annual drawing for door prizes.  John Tarbox, Bob Baines, Randy Newcomb and Pat White each won a four-foot lobster trap from Brooks Trap Mill. Gerry Cushman won a Brooks Trap Mill sweatshirt. Robert O’Hara and Willis Spear each won a lobster trap from Friendship Trap. Vance Bunker, Bob Williams and Mike Myrick won free drill conductor training from McMillan Offshore Survival. Tad Miller and Oscar Look won MLA sweatshirts. The meeting was adjourned at 10 a.m. Immediately following the members meeting, the MLA directors held their annual election of officers. The directors unanimously approved  David Cousesn, president, Jim Dow, vice president, Brian McLain, second vice president and Arnie Gamage, secretary/treasurer.

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