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Meeting Roundup: July 2011

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission The ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section met on June 7 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Main agenda items were (1) review public comment regarding the Public Information Document (PID) for Amendment 2 to the FMP for Northern Shrimp, (2) review the Advisory Panel (AP) recommendations regarding issues in the PID, and (3) task the Plan Development Team (PDT) to create a draft of Amendment 2 with selected potential management options. The Shrimp Section suggested changes to the goal and objectives of the Northern Shrimp FMP to maintain a viable fishery on a sustainable resource while protecting historical participants. These suggestions will be included in Draft Amendment 2 for consideration. Clarification of the goal and objectives of the FMP provided the basis for selecting options to be included in draft Amendment 2. For draft Amendment 2, the Section included several short-term options that could be implemented in the 2011/2012 fishery. As a first step towards limited entry, the Section set a control date of June 7, 2011, noting that any new entrants after this date may be treated differently than participants already in the fishery. The Section also noted that landings history prior to this control date may be considered as a limited entry program is developed. Additionally, the Section included mandatory weekly reporting by primary purchasers (including peddlers) noting that timelier reporting will help industry make better business plans and allow managers the ability to accurately monitor harvest. The Section also tasked the PDT to analyze trip limit options that would control landings rates and minimize the potential for discard mortality by evaluating landings by vessel catch history, gear type, and vessel size class. The Section also included harvest quotas and limited entry in the adaptive management section of draft Amendment 2. Although implementing harvest quotas and/or limited entry for the 2011/2012 fishery would be a challenge, including them in the adaptive management section of draft Amendment 2 provides the flexibility to implement these options through a future Addendum to the FMP. Lastly, options to allow closure of the fishery through Section action with the inclusion of public comment, allow in-season modifications (e.g., days out), and allow the fishing mortality target to be updated as the stock assessment is updated was included in draft Amendment 2.

 MLA Directors meeting Maine Lobstermen’s Association directors met on June 7 in Belfast. Dr. Heather Deese from the Island Institute updated the MLA directors on ocean wind energy. The Island Institute is involved in offshore ocean wind through helping determine the environmental impacts and ensuring that fishing communities have a voice in the process. The Institute is examing how the coast will be impacted by a large-scale offshore wind development. The political landscape has changed dramatically with the Baldacci administration strongly in favor of wind energy to the Lepage administration taking a more neutral stance. On the federal level there remains a huge amount of support for offshore wind development. A University of Maine turbine will be tested off Monhegan Island next year. It will be a scaled-down model of a submerged float and turbine. The Institute will be conducting outreach this summer to introduce connect wind energy developers and coastal communities. Sarah Cotnoir from Maine’s Department of Marine Resources updated the MLA board on the timeline for the new whale rules and reviewed the meetings held to date by DMR including those with the Commissioner and zone councils. She provided a summary of ideas for vertical line risk reduction generated by lobstermen during this outreach. GoMLF held a meeting with industry, NMFS and whale experts to discuss options for vertical line risk reduction which revealed interest in gear modifications such as weak rope on top of the buoy line as a means to reduce the vertical line risk to whales. DMR has scheduled three scoping meetings on June 21-23 to get broader feedback from Maine lobstermen in advance of the NMFS Scoping meetings which will be held July 11-14. The mandate from NMFS to improve gear marking was also discussed. MLA directors approved the summary of the May meeting. Patrice McCarron reviewed MLA’s financials and reported that the budget is on track and well ahead of last year. The Maine Lobstermen’s Alliance has filed its first annual report with the state. The MLA Relief Fund for Dave Mahonen received a few more donations and will remain open until the end of the summer with ads running in CFN and FV. MLA’s 2011 membership year will end below our goal, however, the MLA successfully recruited more than 100 new members this year. The MLA newsletter continues to get great reviews and advertising revenue has been adequate to cover costs. The July newsletter will be mailed to non-commercial lobstermen with a membership appeal. The MLA directors also supported giving complimentary MLA memberships to all new entrants to the lobster fishery on a quarterly basis to welcome them to the industry. Staff provided updates on MLA programs. The TAA program is going well. MLA has organized 23 workshops in May and June to provide intensive training in addition to the online offerings. Workshops will resume again in the fall. Both the online and in person workshops have been well received. Details of the legislative session have been tracked in the MLA newsletter. The Legislature passed a bill to allow processors to process oversized lobster, but this will sunset in 2013. The Legislature also tasked DMR to conduct a study of the lobster industry’s limited entry system and report back in 2013. The Legislature passed a fuel tax exemption for all commercial fishermen. A bill to reorganize the MLPC Board was held over for discussion in the next session. MLA discussed potential nominations to fill the vacant seats on the MLPC board which included Jim Dow for the eastern Maine harvester seat, John Petersdorf for the midcoast dealer seat, Peter Miller for the midcoast harvester seat and Patrice McCarron for the southern Maine public seat. Heather Tetreault gave a brief presentation on the MLA’s work to map how, when and where Maine lobstermen fish along the coast of Maine to feed into the new whale plan. There are still a few harbors which need to provide data and MLA will fill them in this month. The directors gave feedback on a draft survey to document changes in rope use over time. The MLA will meet with Governor LePage in July to discuss the industry’s priorities such as prohibiting the landing of dragger-caught lobster, concerns over lobster license transfer, and the issue of maintaining opportunities for young people in fisheries. The MLA will meet again on July 19 at 5 p.m. at Darby’s.

May zone council meetings Zones A, B, D, E, F and G met during the month of May. At each meeting, members were apprised of the status of any lobster-related bills before the Legislature, the upcoming DMR vertical line scoping meetings taking place in June, and the names suggested to fill empty seats on the Maine Lobster Promotion Council. DMR Commissioner Olsen attended the Zone F meeting on May 3. The principal topic of discussion during the meeting was the island limited entry proposals for Chebeague and Cliff Islands. Zone D met on May 23. Members reported seeing a high incidence of shell disease this year than at this time in the past. Members also did not like the names suggested for the Maine Lobster Promotion Council and instead, made a motion to dissolve the Council entirely. The motion passed with two members abstaining. Zone B meet on May 24 with Carl Wilson (DMR) attending. Discussion focused on the entry to exit ratio. Members noted that the number of tags in the area was still going up. Two licenses were granted off the waiting list this year. Motion was made to oppose any processing of oversized lobsters in the state. Motion passed with one vote opposed. Motion was made to leave the ratio (5:1) as it is. Motion passed with 6 in favor, two opposed. Zone A met on May 25. Members commented that the catch is down for this time of year, despite a lot of effort. Motion was made to adopt the referendum results on having a maximum of four traps on a trawl in certain districts of the zone and continue on to rulemaking. Motion passed with one vote against. Zone E met on May 26 with Carl Wilson attending. Meeting focused on the upcoming vertical line meetings, legislative updates and nominations for the Maine Lobster Promotion Council seats. Zone G met on May 31. Members noted that they have seen a lot of shell disease in lobsters of all sizes. There was discussion of the owner-operator law, the entry-exit ratio for the zone, and the number of tags allowed for transfers into the zone.

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