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  • MLCA

Meeting Roundup: November 2011

MLA Board of Directors Meeting The MLA directors met on October 4 in Belfast. Executive director Patrice told the directors that the MLA financials are on track and 2012 budget will soon be final. Memberships are now overdue and reminders are in the mail. The MLA will be presenting a check from the MLA Relief Fund to the family of Dave Mahonen. The Governor’s office is continuing the search for a DMR Commissioner, and hopes to have the position filled in January. In the interim, Pat Keliher continues to serve as Acting Commissioner. Chellie Pingree’s office reported that NOAA is aware that the Jonesport buoy is down and it is due to be repaired in November when ship time from a USCG vessel becomes available. Both MLA and DMR submitted comments to NMFS with regard to the development of the vertical line rule. The review of the Maine DMR was released in September and included recommendations that the fishing industry should invest in seafood marketing and the lobster industry should explore trap reductions. The quota for the offshore Area 3 herring fishery has been caught, and it is anticipated that the inshore 1A fishery will be caught by early November. MLA is submitting comments on the ASMFC draft menhaden plan. Bob Baines updated the directors on the Lobster Advisory Council’s discussions to monitor potential risks from non-native bait supply. They are working with state regulators and scientists to identify statutory and regulatory options to limit risk of introducing disease from these baits. David Cousens led a discussion on the DMR review recommendations that the seafood industry should invest in marketing. He noted that the price of lobster has gone down this year compared to last and the industry has been saved by the volume of lobster being landed. He asked the MLA Board for feedback on the idea of increasing our investment in marketing. Overall, MLA directors support the idea of increasing investment in marketing Maine lobster. They also agreed that despite a growth in landings, the bottom line for most lobstermen is shrinking. However, they expressed concern over who should fund such an effort, and a lack of trust that additional profits generated from marketing would be passed from dealers to harvesters. Others expressed a lack of confidence in the Maine Lobster Promotion Council. There was much discussion of ideas that could gain broad support from the lobster industry with regard to marketing. MLA directors discussed the idea of harvesters taking control of a new marketing effort, or creating a brokerage to buy and sell lobsters in a transparent manner. The directors discussed problems in the processor sector in Canada, weak demand due to the poor economy and the need to improve our product quality. Bob Baines said that the LAC will continue discussion of marketing at its November meeting. The MLA directors generally agreed that lobstermen are not likely to support additional investment in marketing without having control of the marketing and some level of guarantee that they will get the return on the investment. MLA Directors will meet on November 15 at 5 p.m. at Darby’s in Belfast. Commissioner Keliher will address the Board about the independent study of the lobster entry system DMR will be conducting.

ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section The Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section approved Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Northern Shrimp at its October meeting and has recommended its full adoption by the Commission. The Amendment will modify the fishing mortality reference points to include a threshold level, includes a more timely and comprehensive reporting system, and allows for a limited entry program to be pursued through the adaptive management addendum process. At the meeting, the Section was presented with the preliminary results of the northern shrimp stock assessment, which finds that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Additionally, shrimp abundance in the western Gulf of Maine has declined steadily since 2006.  The latest survey showed a much lower than normal abundance of large females and juveniles, with the remaining males and females being small for their age. Given these findings and the fact that there were significant overharvests in both the 2009/2010 (28% above harvest limit) and 2010/2011 (48% above harvest limit) fishing seasons, the Section will be considering a significantly reduced harvest limit for the 2011/2012 fishing season. The Technical Committee has recommended a harvest limit of approximately 1800 mt.

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