Published in Landings, June, 2014.
Stonington lobsterman charged with multiple infractions
In May, Theodore Gray, a 34-year-old lobsterman from Stonington, was charged by the Maine Marine Patrol with molesting lobster equipment, possession of 269 undersized lobsters and possession of 123 V-notched lobsters. The charge for molesting equipment was made because Gray was found in possession of 20 traps that belonged to another harvester.
While molesting lobster gear is a civil violation with a potential fine of between $100 and $500, the other two violations come with much more stringent penalties. Possession of undersized lobsters is a Class D crime with the possibility of one year in jail. Penalties include $500 for each violation and $100 for each lobster involved up to and including the first five, plus an additional $200 for each lobster in excess of five. In addition to jail time, the total potential fine facing Gray for this violation is $53,800. Possession of v-notched lobsters is also a Class D crime with the possibility of one year in jail. In addition, a fine of $500 for each violation can be imposed, as well as a fine of $100 for each lobster up to and including the first five, and a fine of $400 for each lobster in excess of five. Gray faces a fine totaling $48,200.
MLMC continues search for executive director
The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has reopened its search for an executive director. The Collaborative, which began operation last fall, is charged with marketing and promoting Maine lobster at the national and international levels. “We are re-posting the position and also exploring options for professional assistance in the search,” interim director Marianne Lacroix explained. “The MLMC is committed to finding an outstanding candidate who can successfully lead the worldwide marketing effort for the iconic Maine lobster brand. While the search goes on, the organization is moving forward with a full schedule of marketing programs designed to increase demand for Maine lobster.”
Herring Area 1B closed
On May 24, NMFS closed the directed fishery for Atlantic herring in Area 1B until April 30, 2015, because the allowed quota for that area has been exceeded. Vessels issued Federal Atlantic herring permits may not fish for, catch, possess or land more than 2,000 lb of herring in or from Area 1B per trip or calendar day. Area 1A will open on June 1.
New herring regulations are likely
Under new rules being recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council, herring trawlers will have to stop fishing and end the fishing trip if they lower their nets and dump their bycatch. The Council has proposed that herring trawlers which dump fish after encountering schools of dogfish or because of safety reasons, such as mechanical problems, would have to move at least 15 miles to another fishing area.
The measure needs final approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Atlantic herring is the primary lobster bait for Maine’s lobster industry. The herring fishery in Maine was valued in 2013 at about $16 million, or 3 percent of the state’s $531 million commercial fishery, according to the Department of Marine Resources.
About 100,000 metric tons of herring are caught annually in New England. The proposal, if approved by NMFS, could affect the eight to 11 herring vessels based in Maine.
Robots patrol the Gulf in search of toxic algae
Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution began an innovative NOAA-funded pilot program last month using robotic instruments to shed light on changing ocean conditions and harmful algal blooms, commonly referred to as red tide, in the Gulf of Maine. Red tide is caused by the germination of dormant cysts of alga called Alexandrium fundyense, which produces a toxin that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). These cysts are found in bottom sediments and near-bottom waters in “seedbeds” that serve as the source of the blooms each spring.
Researchers typically base the annual red tide forecast on the abundance of cysts in bottom sediments combined with a computer model based on previous years’ conditions. This year, researchers will deploy four robotic instruments called Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs) that will measure bloom concentration and toxins at multiple locations along the Gulf of Maine. Three ESPs were successfully deployed in May and are already transmitting data to shore, indicating low concentrations of the toxic Alexandrium in the nearshore waters of western Maine, good news for the state’s clam diggers.