coastal outlook: Thoughts from MLCA President Patrice McCarron

First published in Landings, July, 2017

Summer has arrived and July is the month when every- thing speeds up. Maine’s summer visitors are here in full force. The restaurants and resorts are brimming with customers. Lobstermen are hauling traps, eagerly waiting for the start of the shedding season.

It’s also a time when lobstermen can breathe a big sigh of relief on several fronts. As Landings highlights, the past few months were tough in Augusta, where the Joint Committee on Marine Resources wrestled with the provisions of LD 575, An Act To Improve the Enforcement of Maine’s Lobster Laws. The bill strengthens minimum penalties for certain lobster law violations and criminalizes some lobster violations to allow the Department of Marine Resources to conduct covert investigations when they have probable cause. Surprisingly, the bill was strongly supported by the state’s lobstermen who were tired of seeing cheaters getting away with a slap on the wrist. But getting the bill to become law, as it did when Governor LePage signed it on June 14, was a difficult journey, as you will read in this issue.

July finds Maine’s lobstermen at sea and hard at work. MLA photo.

Lobstermen also were relieved when the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) decided in late June to exempt lobster fishing from two coral protection zones in the Gulf of Maine. As detailed in Landings, lobstermen can continue to set traps on their traditional grounds around Outer Schoodic Ridge and Mt. Desert Rock as they have in the past. The NEFMC had considered closing those areas to all bottom gear in order to protect corals found at the two sites. However, in the face of opposition by Maine lobstermen and data indicating the high value of the two fishing areas, the NEFMC decided toallow lobstering to continue.

This month will also see the start of the second year of NOAA’s hydrographic survey, this time in eastern Penobscot Bay. Project manager Dean Moyles gives us an overview of the survey’s route and the technology that will be used to gather important bathymetric information this summer. Moyles is working closely with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association to ensure that local lobstermen are aware of what’s going on.

Rebecca Weil and colleagues are continuing their study on how to make personal flotation devices (PFDs) work for lobstermen. Falls overboard are the leading cause of death among New England fishermen, many of whom do not wear PFDs when working on deck. Weil is enlisting Maine and Massachusetts lobstermen to try out one of several types of PFDs while fishing in order to learn from them directly how those PFDs could be altered to make them safer, more comfortable and easier to wear. As she says in Landings, “This is not a regulatory project. This is to keep people from drowning.”
We also hear about two of the many Maine Fishermen’s Forum scholarship recipients. Since 1998, young men and women connected to Maine’s fishing industries have received scholarship money for secondary education from the Forum. They have used that money to pursue their careers in multiple different ways. This month we learn about the educational pursuits of Alayna Caricofe from East Machias and Hattie Train from Long Island in Casco Bay.

Women are no longer rare to see on the docks or in the offices of Maine seafood companies. But that wasn’t always the case. This month Landings profiles Emily Lane, currently the administrative managerof the Vinalhaven Fishermen’s Cooperative and director of sales at Calendar Islands Maine Lobster, about her long career in Maine’s seafood processing world as part of
our series “People of the Coast.”

We also catch up with some of the young lobstermen who traveled to Prince Edward Island this spring as part of the second Maine Lobster Leadership Institute. As the closing experience in their winter-long studies, the lobstermen visited with Prince Edward Island lobstermen along the north shore of the island. They fished with them, stayed in their homes, and toured a holding and processing facility owned by a local fishing cooperative. A one participant said, “That was pretty cool to see, that it is all fishermen-owned.”

It is the height of summer this month and many among us are enjoying a casual lobster feast on the weekend or when friends come to call. For diners in Dallas, San Francisco and New York City, however, indulging in Maine lobster is something entirely different. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative is staging another series of Maine After Midnight events this summer specifically for chefs and food professionals in those three cities. Chefs get to meet Maine lobstermen and sample Maine new-shell lobster and do a taste test between Maine new-shell and hardshell lobster after work at an event hosted by a local big time restaurateur. It’s late, it’s loud and from the perspective of the Collaborative, it’s a surefire way to build demand for Maine lobster among the tastemakers in these cities.