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MLA pages: October 2015

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MLA Directors Meeting Summary The MLA Directors met on September 2 in Belfast. Chris White attended the meeting as a guest. He is working on a book about the New England lobster industry. He is attending meetings and events to observe and understand the different voices in the industry. Kathy Mills from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) presented an overview of their lobster forecast model developed to predict the timing of the shed. The model was created in response to the ocean heatwave that occurred in 2012, which resulted in a very large and early shed. GMRI scientists wondered whether that ocean heatwave could have been predicted, which lead to development of the model. It is considered a work in progress; GMRI is seeking input from the lobster industry on its utility and how it may be improved. The model uses water temperature data from several of the NERACOOS buoys along the Maine coast collected at 50 meters. Presently, the model’s is able to make more accurate predictions for an early season as opposed to a late season. It produces a probability that the start of the shed will happen early or late relative to a “normal season,” which is said to be July 3 to July 10. MLA Directors offered feedback on the effort. The approach and predictions are too broad. Rather than using a statewide average for temperature and issuing a single prediction for the state, at least consider doing it regionally (i.e., southern, midcoast and downeast). Comparing the start of the season to a “normal” shed is confusing. Many lobstermen don’t know what “normal” is; lobstermen who have fished for several decades consider a “normal” shed to be what was seen prior to ten years ago, similar to this year. The last ten years have been atypical and very unpredictable. In presenting the model’s prediction, there should be more emphasis on educating the industry on which factors are driving the prediction, rather than just giving a date. The model and its predictions should focus on when the shed will occur and the volume of the shed; it should not make any predictions about how this may impact the market or price. The MLA will distribute a survey to its members to solicit additional feedback on this project. Patrice McCarron updated the Directors on several issues: The Commissioner has held the first two outreach meetings on making changes to the lobster entry and licensing system. The key reforms under discussion include: 1) changing the currency of exit ratios to licenses for all zones, 2) extending the age for students to obtain a full commercial license from under 18 years of age to under 23 years of age; 3) create a lower cost limited lobster license with a lower trap limit. The MLA Board had a very mixed response and is very concerned about the zone councils losing authority. MLA will attend all of the meetings to continue to assess the issue and feedback from the industry. ASMFC closed the herring fishery because the second trimester quota has been caught. The industry was caught off guard by this because, based on landings, scientists had predicted that the quota would last through September. However, a sudden spike in the weekly reporting resulted in the shutdown. The issue is complicated by the rolling spawning closures which occur from mid-August to mid-October off, from downeast Maine to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The Conservation Law Foundation and several other environmental organizations are seeking to have Cashes Ledge and certain offshore submarine canyons designated as a National Monument. This can be done by presidential order with little to no public input. The fishing industry is outraged, given the time and resources invested in the recently completed New England Fisheries Management Council’s Omnibus Habitat Amendment. The MLA will join the state and other fishing groups in opposing this effort. NMFS responded to MLA’s letter raising concerns about the federal observer program. The NMFS letter generally dismissed MLA’s concerns with the exception of the issue of poor lobster handling on deck. NMFS released its proposed rule to ban the imports of seafood that do not meet U.S. bycatch standards under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The rules will not be implemented until at least the summer of 2016, and countries which are not in compliance have 5 years to receive a “comparability finding” or an acceptable plan before trade restrictions are imposed. This issue will continue to be monitored. Comments are due November 9. Max Strahan is seeking signatures in Massachusetts to get a question on the November 2016 ballot to ban gillnet gear and other fishing gear capable of harming whales and turtles. This is not the first time he has tried this; he would need to get nearly 65,000 signatures for this to move forward. Membership renewals are underway and going well; there’s been great feedback on the new hats. Those who join before September 15 will be entered into the raffle. April Gilmore McNutt has resigned her position as Navigator with the MLA to have more time with her son Walter and her family. She will be missed! The next MLA meetings will be October 7, November 10 and December 2. Note: the MLA will be attending the U.S.-Canada Lobster and the Changing Ecosystem conference from November 3 to 6 on Prince Edward Island.

Herring Updates The ASMFC Herring Section closed the Area 1A herring fishery, effective August 28, though herring vessels voluntarily stopped fishing on August 26. The ASMFC earlier had cited data that showed herring were being caught at a rate that would have allowed the fishery to continue through September. However the landings rate accelerated significantly in late August resulting in the shutdown. Since then, it has been reported that the landings were not monitored accurately due to a computer glitch. The Area 1A fishery will reopen on October 1, when all vessels are allowed access to the fishery.

Herring landings
  1. Eastern Maine Spawning Area: August 15 through September 11, 2015

  2. Western Maine Spawning Area: September 1 through September 28, 2015.

  3. Western Maine and Mass/NH Spawning Area: September 21 through October 18, 2015.

Searsport Dredge Project on Hold On September 8, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine DOT announced the withdrawal of the Water Quality Certification (WQC)/ Natural Resources Protection Act application for the Searsport Harbor maintenance and improvement project. The letter stated that the application may be resubmitted at a future. In a subsequent interview, Maine Port Authority Director John Henshaw commented that the application was withdrawn due to issues of timing, and that he expects the application to be refiled. The Army Corps project manager noted that Army Corps wanted more time to study the project, and that the application process was taking longer than expected.

MLA says NO to a National Monument in the Gulf of Maine The MLA joined several other fishing industry groups (Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Lobstermen’s Union, Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association, Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, Gloucester Fisheries Commission and the American Bluefin Tuna Association) in signing a letter to PresidentObama strongly opposing the designation of Cashes Ledge and the offshore canyons as a National Monument. Such a designation could permanently ban fishing and other activities in the area and could be expanded at any time in the future. The letter notes that this potential designation would usurp the established habitat and fisheries management public process and could be economically catastrophic not only to the fishermen, but also to hundreds of small coastal communities in New England. MLA has also been in touch with state officials and Maine’s federal delegation on this issue.

GMRI Seeks Industry Feedback on Lobster Forecast Model

  1. Which lobster zone do you fish in?

  2. What is your home port?

  3. Where do you typically fish? (approximate lat/long or place name)

  4. When do you normally expect to start catching shedders?

  5. When did you start to pick up shedders this year?

  6. Did the shed come on quickly, or did they stream in?

  7. If you could have advanced warning of one aspect of the lobster fishery (for example, timing of the shed, volume of the catch, price, etc.), what would be most useful to you?

  8. Do you have other comments or feedback on the lobster forecast model?

Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative met in September in Rockland, Maine. Representatives from Weber Shandwick were in attendance to update the Board on implementation of the marketing plan to date. The strategy—to work with chefs to move new shell lobster into East Coast markets during peak supply and ramp up MLMC’s web and social media presence—has been extremely successful. Both chefs and consumers have been eager to learn about the taste and seasonality of Maine new shells.

Coast Guard Safety Stickers DUE Oct. 15


Double Gear Marking in Effect for Jeffreys Ledge and Jordan Basin

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Trap Tags Can be Hog Ringed

trap tag

Fall 2015 Inshore Trawl Survey aboard F/V Robert Michael The fall groundfish trawl survey conducted by the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources is scheduled to begin September 28th in New Hampshire working east to Lubec.  The weekly schedule breaks down as: Sept. 28 through Oct. 2, we will be working from New Hampshire to Cape Elizabeth; Oct. 5 through 9, we will be working from Portland to Muscongus Bay; Oct. 12 through 16, we will be working in Penobscot Bay area (Port Clyde to Isle au Haut); Oct. 19 through 23, we will be working from Isle au Haut to Schoodic Point (Mt. Desert Is. Area); and Oct. 26 through 30, we will be working from Schoodic to Lubec (eastern Maine). Schedules are subject to the weather conditions and can change at the last minute. The data collected by the survey is used in the assessment of lobster stocks and many other species of fish and shellfish. The better information we have about ALL our fishery resources, the better we can defend our fisheries and livelihoods.  In order to complete the required minimum number of tows for each of our 20 strata, we are asking for the cooperation of lobstermen in clearing proposed tow areas of gear. Mailings of  proposed daily tow schedules with start and stop coordinates and area overviews to all lobster license holders have already started. Thank you for your cooperation. Tow Schedule and Updates will be available via several methods: For detailed charts, please call Sally Sherman 633-9503, Keri Stepanek 633-9530. Web site: Marine Patrol: Division I, Boothbay @ 633-9595 or Division II, Lamoine @ 667-3373.


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