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Meeting Roundup: January 2011

MLA Board Meeting The Maine Lobstermen’s Association board of directors met on December 14 in Belfast. Executive director Patrice McCarron spoke about the week-long Large Whale Take Reduction Team meeting that she and Heather Tetreault attended in Providence, Rhode Island. At that meeting, Industrial Economics, the consulting firm selected by NMFS to construct a whale entanglement model, presented its preliminary model and results. The model was run based on possible presence of whales and gear in different locations. It examined the number of vertical lines to be removed under differing management scenarios (five, 10 and 20 trap trawls, closed areas). Many at the meeting pointed out deficiencies in the model and its assumptions. McCarron said that the timeline is for a subgroup to work out issues with the data by the by the end of the summer. Then Maine and the other states will draft proposals to reduce vertical lines, for consideration by NMFS and the TRT. The TRT will meet in December, 2011, to discuss proposals which will serve as the basis of the federal rulemaking process. The Final Rule for vertical lines is expected in 2014. McCarron said that there was also discussion about the role of Maine’s exemption line in the vertical line rule. Some participants at the meeting wanted any new rules regarding vertical lines to be applied within Maine’s exempted waters, noting that there have been six whale entanglements in Maine waters between 1997 and 2007. Maine delegates opposed this. Ropeless fishing also came up but NMFS gear specialists said that they did not support that idea, based on testing that they had conducted. Board member Elliott Thomas gave a summary of the meeting of the National Seafood Marketing Coalition which he attended in Seattle, Washington. He said that there is strong interest in submitting a bill to Congress that would set up a $100 million fund for marketing. The money would be apportioned among five regional marketing boards and a national board, made up of the heads of the regional boards. The funds would be distributed as matching grants to marketing groups. He concluded that it would be smart for Maine to get a strong marketing organization set up now to be ready, should the coalition become a reality. McCarron talked about individuals being considered for DMR commissioner and the make-up of the Marine Resources Committee in the legislature. MLA has met with the Transition Team to discuss candidates for Commissioner. MLA has contacted the Speaker of the House and Senate President with recommendations for leadership on the Marine Resources Committee. MLA is advocating to get a study economic study on the value of the lobster industry as a jobs base and its importance to the Maine economy. This data will be essential to ensuring a strong positin for Maine’s fisheries under the new adminstration. MLA Directors held an executive session to discuss financials and organizational issues. The Board will meet on January 4th at noon at Darby’s in Belfast.

Offshore Wind Conference On December 14, an all-day workshop on wind power development in Maine’s offshore waters took place at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center in Belfast. More than 150 people attended the meeting, which was organized by the Island Institute, Maine Sea Grant, the Maine Coastal program and other organizations. The purpose of the meeting was to convey up-to-date information on current development efforts and the critical factors that will make offshore wind power a reality. Jake Ward, University of Maine assistant vice president for research, gave a summary of the offshore test site under development by the university. The University of Maine has received more than $20 million in federal funding for its work on offshore wind power. Its Advanced Structures and Composites Center plans to have the first small-scale offshore wind farm off Monhegan, operating five 5-megawatt turbines between 2014 and 2016 and a farm with 200 turbines up and running by 2020. Mitchell Tannenbaum, from the Maine Public Utilities Commission, gave an update on the request for proposals issued last September for private developers to construct a 30 megawatt facility (25 megwatts from wind, five megawatts potentially from tidal energy). The project must be located 10 nautical miles from any populated land and in at least 300 feet of water. While the initial project calls for only 25 megawatts of power, potential developers must be able to scale the facility up to 100 megwatts to be considered viable. Proposals will be decided upon in May, 2011. Paul Williamson, of the Maine Wind Industry Initiative, spoke about creation of jobs from offshore wind projects. He noted that in Europe, where wind power is further advanced, 59% of the related jobs are in manufacturing, 16% are in installation and 11% are in operations and maintenance. Thus far in Maine, all wind power jobs have been in installation, none in manufacturing. The potential for job creation in that sector is enormous, Williamson said, and includes boat building for offshore work. When asked at the close of the meeting what the recent change in Maine government would mean for future offshore wind projects, Ward said he was optimistic. “State government is just one part of the whole program. There is a huge federal mandate for this as well. We have to make it attractive to investors.” Materials from the meeting can be found at www.islandinstitute.org/windconference2010.

Zone council meetings Zone D council met on December 7. Jimmy Wotton was elected to be track whale rule developments for the council. Jimmy Tripp was elected alternate for the Area 1 LCMT. Shannon Harvey will replace Neil Harvey on the council. Laura Ludwig spoke about the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation’s derelict gear collection project. Sarah Cotnoir from DMR summarized the recent Large Whale Take Reduction Team (TRT) meeting in Providence, R.I. Deirdre Gilbert, DMR, and Matt Nixon, State Planning Office, gave an update on offshore wind power projects. Council members asked Senator Chris Rector, who attended the meeting, to move forward a bill creating administrative alternatives to license suspension following a proposal drafted by DMR this past summer. Zone C council met on December 8. Sarah Cotnoir gave a summary of the TRT meeting in Providence. Deirdre Gilbert and Matt Nixon spoke about offshore wind power projects. One member asked about double-tagging. Zone C and B currently double-tag. The Vinalhaven representative wants to double tag with Zone D. Council members will bring the idea up at the next meeting. They also discussed the location and time of the next meeting. Winter meetings have presented problems for members from islands. The council will look into setting up an ITV meeting so that all can participate. Zone F council met on December 14. They elected David Johnson as council vice-chair and signed the amended by-laws. Laura Ludwig spoke about the derelict gear collection project. Sarah Cotnoir gave a summary of the TRT meeting. Council members discussed the applications for island limited entry programs. Cliff Island wants its 11 existing licenses to grow to 15. Chebeauge Island wants the 31 existing licenses to grow to 36. Council members will talk to people in their communities about the idea and will report on feedback at the next meeting. Marine Patrol then summarized recent conflicts between lobstermen and shrimp draggers. Members suggested that an update on ocean energy projects be set for the next meeting as well as discussion on marketing.

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