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  • MLCA

Meeting Roundup: November 2012

MLA "Meet the Candidates" Meetings September 25 in Portland; September 27 in Ellsworth; October 4 in Rockland – The Maine Lobstermen’s Association held three regional meetings to meet candidates who will appear on the November 6 ballot. These meetings introduce candidates to the MLA and the issues facing the Maine lobster industry. “Natural resource-based industries are very complex, so the MLA hosts these meetings during each election cycle to help candidates gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing Maine’s lobstermen,” explained Patrice McCarron, MLA’s director. Candidates were presented information about the MLA, the lobster industry and those issues likely to be debated by the Legislature. Information touched on the basic demographics of the industry, lobster management structure, lobster conservation measures, market conditions, efforts to brand Maine lobster, and the potential to increase lobster processing in Maine.

MLA Directors Meeting October 9 -- Belfast, ME – The MLA board reviewed the financials including the profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow reports. A budget committee was formed to work on the 2013 budget for presentation to the Board in November. The MLA held a series of three candidates meetings. Attendance was fair at the meetings with Portland drawing the most candidates, followed by Rockland and then Ellsworth. Several regulatory updates then were discussed. The Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) tabled action on Stat Oil’s proposed term sheet requesting to set a minimum price for energy generated from offshore wind turbines. The PUC sent the term sheet back to Stat Oil asking for greater assurances that Maine will reap long-term benefits from the pilot wind energy project off its coast. On a separate track, the Stat Oil project continues to move through the federal Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) process. MLA will provide written comments to BOEM on the Stat Oil application (due November 8). The Board discussed proposed changes to the ASMFC Shrimp Plan and Maine’s Scallop Plan. Anyone with an interest in shrimping or scalloping is urged to review the proposals and get their thoughts on the record. MLA will provide comments to ASMFC on the proposed changes to the Menhaden Plan which could result in significant cuts in menhaden landings (due November 16) and on the right and humpback whale stock assessments (due November 5). The offshore Area 3 herring fishery was closed on October 2 when the quota allocation was landed; at that time the inshore herring fishery had landed 75% of its quota. It is possible that the entire herring quota will be landed and the fishery closed by early November. Inshore herring landings are greatly hindered by area spawning closures in effect during September and October. Directors raised concerns about the increased number of gear conflicts off of Mount Desert Island with purse seiners fishing for herring. Since this fishery takes place at night, a lot of lobster gear is lost. This problem has been worse than usual this year because warm water has led many lobstermen to set offshore gear early. It is anticipated that this problem could escalate in future years. MLA Directors felt that the best course of action is for affected lobstermen to communicate with Marine Patrol officers and with the herring vessels operating in their local area. The MLPC sent out a press statement announcing that Dane Somers has resigned as its Director and Marianne LaCroix is serving as acting director. The MLA had a brief discussion about several issues expected to come before the Maine Legislature in 2013. The LAC will bring forward a bill to dissolve the Maine Lobster Promotion Council and establish a new marketing organization funded with an annual budget of $3 million, phased in over three years. The MLA supports this effort. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) will be submitting a report to the Maine Department of Marine Resources assessing the current lobster industry limited entry system and recommending options to improve it. Industry feedback has been solicited through a series of outreach meetings and a survey mailed to licensed commercial harvesters and to those in the apprentice program and on the waiting list (25% of surveys were returned). MLA has participated in focus group meetings to provide additional information to GMRI and represent the concerns of current commercial lobstermen. DMR plans to get feedback on the GMRI study recommendations during the fall months. The report will be presented to the Maine Legislature in January 2013. Several Directors noted that any change to the lobster industry’s entry system could significantly impact the industry at a time when it is already overwhelmed with changing circumstances. The board believes it would be imprudent to make changes based on one study as the industry will need time to digest the report and understand the long-term implications of changing the entry system. Two long-standing and controversial topics are likely to receive attention in the Legislature: allowing the landing of dragger-caught lobster and ending the zones at three miles. The MLA Board reiterated that the landing of dragger-caught lobster is not up for discussion. Several perspectives were raised regarding the impacts of changing the zone boundary line. This idea has not been supported by the industry in the past. However, it was suggested that the proposal may be to create a separate zone in the federal waters of Area 1 in an effort to help offshore boats. The MLA will continue to seek feedback on these issues and discuss them at future meetings. The Directors continued their discussion on potential harvester reform, conveying feedback heard from members. The Directors emphasized again that the industry is in a very vulnerable situation and that something should be done. The LAC is analyzing a suite of options for consideration by the DMR. Two issues were raised that make it difficult to move forward with harvester reform. First, most harvesters do not think about the industry as a whole, but rather look at how any change will affect each as an individual. Until lobstermen are able to think about how the industry can work together to create a higher valued lobster, change will be difficult. Second, MLA Directors raised the issue of lack of enforcement. If you are going to be serious about this business, then you need to have serious laws and enforcement mechanisms in place. Cheaters have the ability to take away from the guys who are doing the right thing. This is disrespectful and needs to change before any real reform of our business model can happen. The next MLA meeting will be November 7, at 5pm at Darby’s in Belfast.

Maine’s Working Waterfront Coalition October 10, via conference call – The Working Waterfront Coalition discussed the Question 3 bond to provide $5 million in funding to the Land for Maine’s Future Program. If approved by voters, a portion of these funds would support the preservation of working waterfronts through the Working Waterfront Access Protection Program. A campaign, “Citizens to Preserve Maine’s Heritage,” has been launched urging voters to support this bond. Funding from the 2010 bonding cycle has not been made fully available for spending, so the WWAPP is temporarily on hold until these funds are released. There are many potential projects that have not been funded which the new bond money would support. A national Working Waterfront Symposium will be held March 25-28, 2013, in Tacoma, Washington.

Menhaden Coalition Conference Call

October 11, via conference call – The menhaden coalition met to discuss ASMFC’s proposed changes to the menhaden management plan (Amendment 2) and issues surrounding the stock assessment. The proposed management changes could result in dramatic catch reductions. They stem from the last stock assessment which determined that the resource is likely not overfished but overfishing is likely occurring. However, there are serious questions surrounding the findings of the stock assessment which make it difficult to assess the population size or how much the fishing mortality needs to be reduced. Omega Protein has hired a stock assessment scientist, Dr. Butterworth, to make some changes to the assessments which were recommended by the Review Panel in 2010. While preliminary, this analysis indicates that significant cuts in landings are not needed to maintain a healthy stock. The goal of Amendment 2 is to end overfishing immediately; however, this is not possible if the status of the stock is unknown. Individual coalition members will advocate that the Commission not move forward with significant reductions in quota until the next benchmark assessment is completed in 2014.


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