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Meeting Roundup: January 2012

Maine Lobster Promotion Council At the November 29 MLPC meeting, board chairman, Emily Lane, welcomed several new board members: Jim Dow as the downeast harvester, Peter Miller as the midcoast harvester, John Petersdorf as the midcoast dealer, and Patrice McCarron as the public member from western Maine. Dane Somers expressed his gratitude that the MLPC has filled all seats on the board. Somers updated the Board on several past and planned activities. The MLPC plans to significantly expand its presence at the March 2012 Boston Seafood Show. They have secured a much larger booth space and are inviting Maine vendors who have not participated in Boston to exhibit at the booth. MLPC will have food samples prepared by chefs available in the booth and plan to host additional events including a reception and chef contest. Maine companies will be invited to showcase their product offerings in the booth. The MLPC Board has a subcommittee to assist staff in finalizing plans and the budget for this event. MLPC continues to support the National Seafood Marketing Coalition effort to seek Congressional funds for seafood marketing. MLPC staff met with Commissioner Keliher to discuss the council’s concerns over a lack of monitoring for PSP in lobster tomalley, citing concerns that this could become a major public health issue for the industry. The MLPC reports another successful Fall Harvest campaign, which included the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year event in Portland, promotions in Hannaford and Shaws supermarkets and pilot holiday promotions in the mid-west. MLPC will be meeting with the new owners of the Hannaford chain supermarkets to discuss expanding promotions to their Sweet Bay and Bloom chains. A number of Maine dealers, including Cozy Harbor Seafood, The Lobster Company, Little Bay Lobster, Calendar Islands, Shucks Maine Lobster and Mazetta, attended international trade shows in Hong Kong and/or Qingdao, with a few companies attending both. Food Export USA conducted a trade mission to Beijing following these trade shows. The Maine International Trade Center has potential to support Maine companies to attend the Brussels European Seafood Expo. MLPC has added a new Chinese section to its website. Dane Somers expressed concern over the legislation pending from last session to make changes to the MLPC. Commissioner Keliher stated that the Governor would like to see Maine establish a seafood marketing council, however, the Commissioner stated that is likely too ambitious at this point in time. He also commented that the goal of bringing more professional expertise to the MLPC Board through the proposed legislation makes a lot of sense. MLPC staff will participate in the Lobster Town Meeting in Portland and Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland in March as part of their outreach to the lobster industry. Somers presented a proposal for discussion to raise additional marketing revenues through a 1% assessment on the landed value of the harvest, collected from dealers at the first handler level. Jim Dow expressed concern that this would ultimately come directly out of harvesters pockets. The Board discussed the strategic role of the MLPC. Somers explained that the MLPC’s role is to promote the product and the industry, not to execute sales. There are many issues including lack of coordination amongst dealers, mistrust between harvesters and dealers, issues with processing such that demand is ingredients based and does not use the whole lobster and lack of traceability in the industry. The Board requested a simplified overview of the MLPC’s marketing plan and a summary of MLPC’s past marketing efforts for discussion at the next meeting, which will be scheduled in January.

Zone Councils The overall focus of the most recent round of Zone Council meetings was for DMR to get feedback from fishermen on legislation passed during the last session to directing the Commissioner of Marine Resources to contract for an independent analysis of the lobster license limited entry system. Acting Commissioner Pat Keliher attended all seven meetings to hear from industry. Deirdre Gilbert provided the councils with updates on legislative activity, noting that in the upcoming second session of the 125th Legislature there will be only four Department bills related to marine resources. One bill will establish a list of alternative freshwater baits permissible for use in the Maine lobster fishery and will create a list of marine species that will be prohibited for use by lobstermen. Another will establish a hard line trap limit of 400 traps for the Monhegan Island zone. The existing law states that the island can fish up to 475 traps with the limit set at the discretion of the Commissioner, currently set at 300 traps. The bill will also remove the statute for the Monhegan-specific apprentice program. As of November 9, 2011, a new law was implementing limiting trawls to four traps in a discrete area from Beals Island to Libby Island within Zone A. Zone B held a discussion on lobster trap construction. Laura Ludwig attended the Zone G meeting to give a derelict gear update. The council requested Marine Patrol presence to discuss MPO staffing issues and the Southern Maine Lobstermen’s Association declared Dave Testaverde their Officer of the Year. Zone D established a subcommittee to work on their referendum regarding closed periods. Zone E requested patrol to be present to discuss v-notching and clarify the definition of v-notch. Carl Wilson was also present to address the council’s question regarding the biological impact of lobsters on bottom. Wilson explained that the v-notching system has contributed to the current volume and status of the fishery.

MLA Board The Maine Lobstermen’s Association Board of Directors met on December 13, 2011 for what was largely an executive session to discuss various budget items. Patrice McCarron gave an update on the Stat Oil offshore wind pilot project proposed for a site off of the coast of Boothbay Harbor. She explained that there is still an opportunity to engage in the process but that it would require key participants from diverse fishing interests to convene and discuss the pro’s and con’s, or alternatives to the current site. When members of the board questioned the size of the test site, she explained that there are only four turbines planned for this pilot commercial project, but that the project could be expanded significantly at a future date. After a short discussion, the Board reaffirmed its endorsement of Pat Keliher for appointment as Commissioner of DMR. The Board directed David Cousens to call the Governor’s office to inform them once again of MLA’s position, and for Patrice to send a letter of support for Pat Keliher to members of the Marine Resources Committee, the Governor’s office and Maine delegation and local media, if warranted.

ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section revised the three landing days for the upcoming trawl season to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The action, taken during a November 30th conference call of the Section, was based on industry input that product would be easier to sell in local markets if landing days were spread throughout the week. Given this change, the 2011/2012 fishing season specifications are a total allowable catch (TAC) of 2,000 mt, with the season closing when landings are projected to reach 95 percent of the TAC (1,900 mt). The trawl season will start January 2, 2012 with three landing days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Vessels may only land once a day. The trap season will start February 1, 2012 with a 1,000 pound landing limit per vessel per day. The Section will meet on January 19, 2012 to assess where total landings are relative to the TAC. If necessary, the Section may adjust the closing date or modify management options (e.g., trip limit, days out) at the meeting in order to prevent an overage of the TAC. The details of this meeting will be posted to the Commission website at http://www.asmfc.org/meetings.htm when they become available. The Section also tasked its Technical Committee with reviewing an independent analysis that explores an alternative assessment modeling scenario. The Technical Committee’s findings will be presented to the Section at its January 19 meeting.

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