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Meeting Roundup: June 2012

Maine Lobstermen’s Association and Maine Lobstermen’s Alliance board of directors’ meetings May 1, Belfast – David Cousens opened the meeting and welcomed Amy Lent, Executive Director of the Maine Maritime Museum, as a member of the MLAlliance Board. Patrice McCarron reviewed old business including the April Meeting Summary, MLA’s comments on NEFMC Herring Amendment 5; and year-to-date financials. The Directors raised concerns over this year’s spring fishery. Concerns include boat price, scarcity of lobsters, early arrival of shedders, and the earliest split price that anyone can remember. Dave Cousens and Bob Baines reminded MLA Directors about the upcoming LAC outreach meetings in June featuring John Sauve of the Food and Wellness Group. They asked directors to urge lobstermen to attend these meetings so that individuals can learn first-hand about a new strategy to build demand for Maine lobster as a means to increase boat price. McCarron presented an update on the right whale risk model developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, with support from MLA, to estimate the risk of a right whale encountering lobster gear. Earlier runs of the model contained errors in the fishing effort data. Current runs of the model show different results than the NMFS model. The Directors discussed what the model results mean for future management options and concluded that all of these models are just a guess at what may be happening. They believe the proposal that MLA developed in collaboration with Maine DMR, which creates a new 6 mile line, is still the best plan on the table for Maine. The MLA is working with the New England Aquarium to get a camera on some lobster traps to better understand the source of abrasion in the sinking groundline off the header trap. There was confusion around the use of floating gangions in the bottom rigging system. David Cousens will follow-up with Col. Joe Fessenden to clarify what is legal. The Board discussed a transition strategy to move Maine Lobstermen’s Association to the non-profit Maine Lobstermen’s Alliance. The MLAlliance has non-profit status in Maine, but has still has not received IRS approval as a charitable non-profit organization. The MLAlliance is working towards applying for grants to hire a Policy Director and to start a Leadership program for lobstermen. The MLAlliance Board approved a conflict interest and a personnel policy (Motion Elliott Thomas, second Jim Dow; Unanimous approval). The MLAlliance Board will evolve to include members from outside of lobster industry to gain expertise in fundraising, financial management, marketing and operations. However, the MLAlliance must still rely on commercial lobstermen to set policy and vision for the organization, and can assure this participation through advisory committees. The MLA Board will continue to guide this transition. The MLA Board will continue to meet monthly while the MLAlliance Board will meet quarterly. The Directors agreed to launch the new MLAlliance this summer. Staff will look into the Maine Lobster Festival in August in Rockland as well as additional events in other parts of the coast to promote the launch. Therefore, MLA renewals will be done through the MLAlliance. Staff will work on branding the MLAlliance and developing materials for the launch. A membership renewal committee was formed to discuss changes in the membership structure for this year’s renewal (Jim Dow, Amy Lent, Jack Merrill, David Cousens, Jim Henderson) as well as launch events for the Alliance. Directors suggested that John Sauve attend the next board meeting to run through the presentation he will be making in June.

Lobster Advisory Council May 16, Hallowell -- The Lobster Advisory Council (LAC) re-elected Bob Baines of South Thomaston as Chair and John Drouin of Cutler as Vice-Chair to server another term. John Sauve of the Food and Wellness Group provided the LAC an update on his work through the LAC Marketing Subcommittee, entitled Project Maine Lobster: Build Global Demand. Sauve presented a strategy to increase demand for Maine lobster. The premise is that if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you will get the same outcome, so the Maine lobster industry needs to change its marketing strategy. Sauve, joined by the Lobster Advisory Marketing Subcommittee and Maine DMR staff, will conduct a series of outreach meetings in June in Machias, Ellsworth, Rockland and Yarmouth to present this new marketing strategy to the industry for feedback. The LAC hopes to build industry support and submit a bill to the Legislature for the upcoming session in January 2013. The LAC Marketing Subcommittee presented options to fund a the proposed new lobster marketing entity. Commissioner Keliher explained that due to Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with National Marine Fisheries Service, funds cannot be raised through a tax on landings because it would conflict with the state’s landings and statistics program. The Subcommittee is seeking industry feedback to assist in developing options to raise $3 million from the lobster industry, through either an increase in license fees, or a combination of increasing license fees and trap tag fees. The funds would be raised over 3 years with a proposed budget of $1 million in 2014, $2 million in 2015, $3 million in 2016. The LAC briefly discussed the lack of consistency amongst enforcement on the zero tolerance v-notch definition. LAC members strong endorsed continuing with the zero tolerance v-notch definition, but encouraged DMR to work internally to ensure consistency in enforcement. DMR is encouraging all fishermen to renew commercial licenses through the Maine’s online system located at www.maine.gov/licenses. Local libraries throughout the state are trained and can help fishermen with online renewals. Online renewal will also expedite trap tag orders and help the DMR move towards a paperless licensing system that could save up to $75,000 in postage and printing costs. Col Fessenden announced that a new Marine Patrol Officer will be starting in the South Thomaston area. The trawl survey is currently underway with minimal conflicts with fixed gear. The elver fishery continues to strain enforcement resources as elvers reportedly sell for more than $2,000 per pound. While the elver resource is under stress, the tribal government has issued an additional 235 licenses. Marine Patrol has a short lobster case in Washington County working its way through the system which will likely result in a significant fine of $15,000, and could include a license suspension. The DMR has released its request for proposals to examine the lobster industry’s limited entry system. It is hoped that a consultant will be hired to complete the work this spring and report its findings to the DMR in October. DMR has hired a new Deputy Commissioner, Meredith Mendelson, who will begin work on June 4. Mendelson has worked at GMRI, as a groundfish sector manager and for Senator Snowe on the Oceans and Fisheris Subcommittee. Lobstermen reported increased incidences of shedder lobster as well as lobsters with shell disease. DMR’s sea samplers will be on vessels throughout the season closely monitoring these issues.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission The ASMFC met April 30 to May 3. The Commission’s Atlantic Herring Section approved for public comment Draft Addendum V to Amendment 2 to the Atlantic Herring Management Plan. The Draft Addendum proposes measures effecting Atlantic herring spawning regulations.  These regulatory changes are in four main areas – the fishery management program, catch monitoring at sea, measures to address river herring bycatch, and mid-water trawl access to groundfish closed areas. The Draft Addendum came about as a result of observed changes in Atlantic herring spawning behavior (size of spawning fish and extent of spawning area) as well as the need to clarify spawning regulations so that they are interpreted and applied consistently among the implementing states.  Public comment on Addendum V will be accepted until 5 p.m. on June 15. The American Lobster Board approved for public comment Draft Addendum XVIII to Amendment 3 to the American Lobster Management Plan. The Draft Addendum responds to the depleted condition of the Southern New England (SNE) lobster resource. Its intent is to scale the capacity of the SNE fishery to the size the resource, with an initial goal of reducing trap allocation by at least 25% over a five to ten year period. Since the scope of the SNE resource encompasses all or part of six of the seven LCMAs, additional addenda will be developed to address effort reduction in the remaining LCMAs. The Draft Addendum proposes a consolidation program for LCMAs 2 and 3. Measures considered in the addendum include trap allocations, trap banking, and controlled growth for participants in the fishery. Because each LCMA has limited entry programs with specific criteria and eligibility periods, latent effort differs between the areas. Thus different measures will be developed for each LCMA.  Public comment on the Draft Addendum will be accepted until 5 p.m. on July 10. Regarding river herring, an independent panel of scientists endorsed the findings of the 2012 Benchmark Stock Assessment for River Herring, concluding the overall coastwide population of river herring (alewife and blueback herring) stocks on the Atlantic coast is depleted to near historic lows. The panel concluded that ideally, river herring should be assessed and managed by individual river systems. However, with over 200 river-specific stocks, population estimates are difficult to develop for the majority of these due to insufficient data. For the 52 river-specific stocks of alewife and blueback herring for which data were available, 23 were depleted relative to historic levels, one stock was increasing, and the status of 28 stocks could not be determined because of the data’s limited time-series. The Board reviewed the alternatives under consideration in the New England Fisheries Management Council’s Draft Amendment 5 and recommended that a letter be sent to the NEFMC supporting any measures that will improve accuracy and accounting of catch reporting.

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