MLA Update: May 2016

First published in Landings, May, 2016.

MLA Directors Meeting

Staying “on message” takes training! MLA photo.

Staying “on message” takes training! MLA photo.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) provided media training for MLA board members in April. Sixteen lobstermen completed the three-hour training and are now able to assist in MLMC’s marketing events, particularly upcoming regional events conducted with professional chefs. During the training, board members learned the key messages that should be stressed when talking about Maine lobster, and how to deal with reporters who may have an alternate agenda for their story. They learned that any interview with the media is an opportunity for a lobsterman to tell his particular story.

The MLA Directors discussed the status of the herring resource and herring management plan. DMR scientist Matt Cieri provided an update on the status of the herring stock which, according to NOAA, is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.

The new MLA board members met with Rep. Poliquin after the Directors’ meeting in April. MLA photo. From left to right, Dustin Delano, Patrice McCarron, Congressman Poliquin, John Tripp, Herman Coombs, Chris Welch.

The new MLA board members met with Rep. Poliquin after the Directors’ meeting in April. MLA photo. From left to right, Dustin Delano, Patrice McCarron, Congressman Poliquin, John Tripp, Herman Coombs, Chris Welch.

The MLA was joined by several members of the CHOIR coalition (a group of recreational and commercial marine businesses) who voiced concern over the status of the stock. They do not agree with the results of the stock assessment and worry that the herring resource is not as strong as scientists believe. They are particularly worried about the impacts of the midwater trawlers on inshore herring and would like to see a permanent ban on herring fishing in Area 1A.

The MLA was joined by Congressman Bruce Poliquin. The MLA informed Rep. Poliquin of the MLA’s focus on lobster quality and the MLA’s April Lobster Quality Tour with Dr. Jean Lavallée. MLA Directors discussed a variety of issues with the Congressman including the impact of whale rules on the lobster fishery, Coast Guard safety regulations — in particular the annual life raft repacking requirement — and the impact of heroin addiction on the lobster fishery. The next MLA Directors meeting will be held on May 4 at 5 p.m. at Darby’s in Belfast.

Lobster Quality Tour a Success

The MLA offers its sincere thanks to Dr. Jean Lavallée for completing his first Lobster Quality Tour in April. With funding from the lobster license plate fund and the Island Institute, the MLA and the MLCA organized a lobster quality workshop in each lobster zone.

The MLA also thanks all of the lobstermen, dealers and community members who participated in these events. Feedback was very positive, so we hope to be able to offer this program again. One Zone G lobstermen noted, “Whether a highliner, part timer or dealer, the case has been made to consider the lobsters’ point of view as we fish and produce a high quality product.”

Important Herring Meeting May 16-17!

If having a steady supply of herring is important to you, please plan to attend an important herring meeting in Portland on May 16 and 17. The New England fisheries Management Council is holding the workshop to get input on the future management of herring. At issue is how precautionary the Council should be when it comes to restricting herring fishing to account for the needs of the ecosystem. The question is this: given the status of the stock, how much herring should be available to the commercial fishery and how much should be left in the ocean to benefit other species? In fisheries management language, this is called the ABC (Acceptable Biological Catch) control rule, which determines how many fish can be harvested by fishermen each year. The workshop will be held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

Those who wish to participate are encouraged to register online by May 9. FMI: www.nefmc.org/calendar/may-16-17-2016-herring-workshop.

Penobscot Bay Hydrographic Survey

NOAA is moving forward with its plan to conduct a hydrographic survey of the inshore waters of Penobscot Bay this summer. The area to be surveyed would include waters off of Port Clyde across to Vinalhaven and up into the bay. The MLA organized stakeholders from the area to meet with scientists to review the potential survey area and discuss potential conflicts with the lobster industry.

While there is no plan in place yet, the survey could take place this year during the fishing season. Researchers discussed using small jet drive boats, contracting with local lobster vessels or flying the survey from a plane as ways to avoid conflict with lobster gear. This survey is part of NOAA’s ongoing mission to keep nautical charts up to date. Once the survey is complete, updated nautical charts will be available through NOAA.

Massachusetts Trawl Survey off Southern Maine

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has begun a three-year industry-based survey on cod stocks in the southwestern portion of the Gulf of Maine. Given the poor stock of Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod, low catch limits, and many fishermen’s claims that the cod status is better than currently assessed, this study will:

  • Provide another science source (resource data and information) for use in assessments
  • Test fishermen’s hypothesis about GOM cod redistributing offshore in response to warming water
  • Demonstrate relevance and importance of a GOM cod IBS for improving our understanding of the distribution of cod at times and in areas when the NEFSC surveys are not performed
  • Acquire additional scientific data on other groundfish stocks in the survey area
  • Enable minimum estimates of swept-area biomass
  • Determine the survey’s potential for providing indices of abundance.

The survey follows a stratified-random design with stations occurring from 10 fathoms to 160 fathoms, including waters west of 69° 30’ within the GOM cod stock boundary. A total of eight survey cruises will be conducted between April 1 through July 31 and between October 1 and January 31, 2017. Ten days of sampling will occur in each of the eight cruises, making 30-minute tows and, depending on weather and sea conditions, averaging five tows per day. The F/V Miss Emily, captained by Kevin Norton, will be conducting this trawl survey. The tows will be 200 feet wide and 1.5 nautical miles long. The vessel phone number is 781-801-8888. Tow locations will be announced each morning at 6 a.m. on VHF Channel 16. You can sign up online for real-time text alerts of specific dates and tow locations on the survey website. For more information and maps of monthly tow locations, visit www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dmf/programs-and-projects/industry-based-survey-for-gulf-of-maine-cod.html.

trawl charts

Herring Days out Meeting

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Herring Section met on April 26 to discuss management of herring landings in Area 1A. They set the “days out” effort control measures for the 2016 Area 1A Trimester 2 (June 1 – September 30) as follows:
June 1 – 30: Vessels may land herring three (3) consecutive days a week. All other days are designated as “days out” of the fishery (e.g., vessels may not land herring).

July 1 – 14: Vessels may land herring four (4) consecutive days a week. All other days are designated as “days out” of the fishery.

July 15 – September 30: Vessels may land herring five (5) consecutive days a week until further notice. All other days are designated as “days out” of the fishery.

The initial Area 1A sub-annual catch limit (ACL) is 30,397 metric tons after adjusting for a carryover from 2014. The Area 1A sub-ACL will be adjusted after the final rule for the 2016-2018 herring specifications is released. The final 2016 Area 1A sub-ACL will include the following reductions: 8% bycatch, 3% research set-aside and 295 metric tons fixed gear set-aside. The Section allocated 72.8% of the sub-ACL to Trimester 2.

By starting with three landings days per week and then adjusting to four and then five days during Trimester 2, the allocation is projected to extend through the end of the trimester. Landings will be monitored closely and the directed fishery will be adjusted to zero landing days when the trimester’s allocation is projected to be reached. The Atlantic Herring Section is scheduled to reconvene via conference call to review fishing effort and adjust landing days as necessary on July 11. Fishermen are prohibited from landing more than 2,000 pounds of Atlantic herring per trip from Area 1A until June 1.

DMR Herring Update

The Maine DMR is in the process of developing rule-making for the 2016 herring fishery. DMR will regulate the daily landings during the Area 1A sub-ACL period 2 (June 1 – September 30). The regulations are intended to manage the herring resource for an ongoing sustainable harvest, with the goal of harvesting the available quota into September. This action is in response to the high landings during the summer of 2015, which closed the Area 1A fishery in mid-August, adversely impacting multiple fisheries and dealers.

DMR intends to publish the Notice of Agency Rule-Making on May 4, and to hold a Public Hearing at 3 PM on Tuesday, May 24 at Department offices in Augusta. The proposed rule-making is anticipated to include the following measures:

Herring harvesters will be limited to fishing for and landing herring for four consecutive days only: 6 p.m. on Sunday night to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Vessels may only land once per twenty-four hour period (6 p.m. to 6 p.m.). ASMFC-required spawning protection and fixed gear measures will be implemented.

Although this proposed rule no longer includes restrictions on daily landings, daily landing limits may be implemented through emergency rule during the season if an unusually large concentration of fishermen or fishing effort might deplete the supply of herring. DMR anticipates that the proposed rule-making will be reviewed by the DMR Advisory Council at a meeting in June. If approved, the rules will then go into effect following filing with the Secretary of State’s office. If DMR determines that fishing occurring earlier in the month of June, or anytime during the season, may cause unusual damage or imminent depletion of the herring resource, or if fishing effort might deplete the supply of herring, DMR will utilize the Commissioner’s emergency rule-making authority to immediately implement further limitations on fishing and landing days, or to impose daily landing limits.

Bycatch Consortium

The Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction, based at the New England Aquarium, held a meeting in April to discuss the potential to develop and test fishing ropes with breaking strengths of about 1700 pounds as a potential whale mitigation strategy. A recent study published in Conservation Biology examined the ropes removed from entangled whales from 1994 to 2010. The study examined 132 ropes from 70 cases and measured the rope type, severity of entanglement and breaking strength of the rope. The report states, “Our results suggest that broad adoption of ropes with breaking strengths of </ 1700 pounds could reduce the number of life-threatening entanglements for large whales by at least 72%, and yet could provide sufficient strength to withstand the routine forces involved in many fishing operations.” The Consortium meeting brought together industry stakeholders, scientists, rope engineers and manufacturers to discuss the potential to develop and fish ropes which meet these criteria.

Dredge Team Meeting Summary

The Maine Dredge Team met in early March to discuss the status of dredge projects in Maine.

Piscataqua River. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) has received required environmental approvals from both Maine and New Hampshire and the ACOE’s Chief of Engineers has issued the “Chief’s report.” The project now awaits Congressional authorization to proceed and remains in the design phase.

Searsport Harbor. The ACOE has suspended this project pending the outcome of discussions between upper-level decision makers at the ACOE and the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) aimed at identifying a plan for moving forward. ACOE expects work on the project to be reinitiated in the near future. The timeframe is not known, but the ACOE and MDOT continue discussions. Tab Brown, ACOE Chief of Planning and Policy, is the appropriate contact at the ACOE’s headquarters regarding this project.

Portland Harbor. There is an “open resolution” for this project which would enable the ACOE to deepen the federal channel if so requested by the local sponsor; the ACOE has received no such request.
Status of Smaller Navigation Improvement Projects in Maine

Blue Hill. Blue Hill and the ACOE are moving forward with a feasibility study. Environmental sampling showed gasoline contamination in some areas where dredging was planned. They are now considering options for revising the dredging plan to avoid disturbance of these areas.

Camden. ACOE approved federal involvement in a feasibility study of a proposal to improve the existing breakwater. Work on this project is on-hold pending execution of feasibility cost-sharing agreement obligating the town to fund 50% of the study’s cost.

Great Chebeaugue Island. The Town of Chebeague Island has decided to pursue its plan to dredge the channel to the wharf used by the ferry service but not the anchorage area included in its earlier plans. In order for the project to move forward, the town needs to sign a feasibility cost-sharing agreement with the ACOE obligating the town to fund 50% of the study’s cost.

Saco-Camp Ellis. Regarding the ACOE shore damage mitigation project at Camp Ellis Beach in Saco, the ACOE and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have concluded Endangered Species Act-related consultations. ACOE is now updating the previously completed feasibility study. Project design may be undertaken next year and application for requisite state environmental approvals would be made after the design is completed. ACOE will request state water quality certification prior to the end of 2016. The project’s scope is limited to construction of the proposed spur jetty, beach nourishment, and post-construction maintenance of the spur jetty and on-going beach re-nourishment. The ACOE anticipates beginning the one-year design of the project in 2017. The local sponsor will be required to pay 50% of the cost of post-construction beach re-nourishment, up to the $26 million federal federal authorization for the project. After that, the local sponsor would be responsible for all beach re-nourishment costs as well as costs of maintaining the jetty.

Non-navigation-projects in Maine

  • Erosion control project in Perry, Maine, in cooperation with the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
  • Meduxnekeag River fish restoration project, in cooperation with the Houlton Band of Maliseets.
  • Penobscot River flood and erosion control project at Indian Island, Maine, in cooperation with the Penobscot Indian Nation.
  • Salt marsh restoration project on the West Branch of the Pleasant River, in cooperation with the Maine Department of Transportation.

Ice flow control project at Cherryfield dam.

Maintenace Dredge Projects

Royal River. A contractor completed dredging and disposal operations for this project in 2015.

Beals Harbor and Pig Island Gut. The project went out for bid in December 2015 and that bid is now under protest. Assuming timely resolution affirming the ACOE’s decision, which awarded the contract to Cashman Dredging, dredging could begin the fall of 2016.

Saco River. The project involves dredging about 150,000 cubic yards, 45,000 cubic yards of which is in the up-river section of the project. The balance of the dredged materials would be used for beach nourishment at Camp Ellis. This 100%-federally funded maintenance dredge is not provided for in the Administration’s pending federal budget proposal. The ACOE intends to submit requests for state water quality certification and federal consistency concurrence in the near future.

Biddeford Pool and Wood Island. This project involves dredging about 40,000 cubic yards of material. Disposal of silty materials would be at a previously-used disposal site in Saco Bay and sandy materials would be used for beach nourishment at Camp Ellis. ACOE intends to submit requests for state water quality certification and federal consistency concurrence in the near future. Funding for this project is not provided for in the Administration’s pending federal budget proposal.

York Harbor. This project involves dredging and disposal of about 50,000 cubic yards of dredged materials at the Cape Arundel Disposal Site. It has received all requisite environmental approvals but is not yet funded.

Cape Porpoise. ACOE estimates this project would generate about 100,000 cubic yards of dredged materials, some of which would be disposed at the Cape Arundel site. Additional sampling and testing needs to be done to determine the materials’ suitability for ocean disposal.

Pepperell Cove. ACOE is awaiting sampling and testing results for this project and intends to initiate consultation regarding required environmental reviews and approvals in summer 2016.

Union River. ACOE is in the early stages of evaluating this project and sediment sampling and testing need to be conducted.

Searsport Harbor. ACOE is not addressing maintenance dredging of the existing federal project as a separate project, pending the outcome of above-noted discussion between decision makers at ACOE and Maine DOT.

Josias River and Stonington Harbor. ACOE has not identified a need for maintenance dredging for these projects.

Portland CAD cell. Tom Dobbins, Portland Harbor Commission, spoke about efforts to site a combined aquatic disposal cell (CAD cell) to serve Portland Harbor. A contract has been awarded to design the CAD cell. Another contract was awarded pursuant to an EPA brownfields grant to assess the nature of sediment contamination around select Portland piers. The contractor will study berthing areas and estimate the amount of dredged material that would need to be placed in the CAD cell. The proposed location of the CAD cell is off Fish Point at the east end of the Portland peninsula; the proposed location has been discussed with local fishermen who indicated its use would not have a major impact on fishing. Discussion of the proposed location and any related concerns regarding potential adverse effects on fishermen will be part of the siting process as it moves forward.