Coastal Outlook Thoughts from MLCA President Patrice McCarron

First published in Landings, October, 2016

If the fall weather and the world’s economies hold their courses, it looks like this year will be another good one for Maine lobstermen. Demand for Maine lobster continues to increase across the globe: Maine sold more than $103 million worth of lobster in the first half of this year alone, twice as much as was sold during the same period in 2015. Hooray!

An increasing portion of that demand comes from countries located in the Far East, such as China, South Korea, and Malaysia. But, as Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, notes in a column this month, much of that demand is coming from within the United States, specifically from restaurant chefs. This summer the Collaborative staged educational events with renowned chefs in three major cities on the East Coast and brought to those events the most persuasive salesmen available: Maine lobstermen. The participating lobstermen talked to chefs and other food professionals about the fishery, their conservation practices and the day-to-day details of lobster fishing and, according to Jacobson, wowed the crowds.

Getting Maine lobsters to customers around the world requires sophisticated logistics. The lobsters, after all, are alive; delays in delivery can have dire consequences. That’s why freight forwarding companies are so vital to Maine’s lobster industry. Freight forwarders make sure that lobsters and other seafood have all the proper documentation to go abroad. They will store thousands of pounds of lobsters before transporting them to cargo planes for shipment around the world. It’s a fast-paced business and, as this month’s article shows, key to the success of Maine lobster companies.

This month Landings also looks at a new bait that is under development by a North Carolina company. Herring, the preferred bait for many lobstermen, has been in short supply this summer causing the price to skyrocket. Kepley BioSystems has created a small calcium-based disk imbued with the scent of rotting fish for use in lobster traps. It is compact, does not spoil, and may be the next thing in lobster bait. The product is being tested in Nova Scotia this fall.

This summer also saw a major hydrographic survey take place in Penobscot Bay. The survey, conducted by Fugro Inc. of San Diego, involved aerial overflights, jet drive boats and an array of multi-beam LIDAR arrays aboard the Westerly and the JAB. Prior to the start of the project, lobstermen in the area were worried about the possibility of snarled or lost traps as the ship conducted its work. Dean Moyles, Fugro’s project manager, answers our questions about the project’s success in this issue of Landings.

In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that humpback whales would no longer be listed under the Endangered Species Act as endangered. The species was first protected under U.S. law in 1970. NOAA’s decision was seen as a sign that conservation efforts on behalf of the whales had succeeded. But that is only half the story. As our article in this issue shows, it was the steady accumulation of genetic and other data by scientists during the past two decades that led to a new understanding of humpback whales as many distinct smaller populations, rather than just one big population, throughout the world. Nine of those populations are robust and no longer require endangered species status.

Also in this issue, the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance is proud to announce plans for the second Maine Lobster Leadership Institute. The first Institute was held in 2014 with twelve young lobstermen and women who learned about the management, science and regulatory world of lobster. The success of that program led to an award from the Maine Lobster Research, Education and Development Board this summer to renew the Institute in the spring of 2017. Planning is underway now for this innovative program next year.

Finally, everyone knows that fishing is a dangerous profession. Nearly every year someone loses their life while at sea. The small town of Lubec, on the eastern-most coast in Maine, knows that sadness very well. In 2009, five fishermen from the area died while working on Cobscook Bay. One Lubec woman decided that there needed to be some tangible memorial to those losses and all the others that had taken place over the decades. For seven years Shelly Tinker and others slowly raised the funds to create a monument on the Lubec waterfront to those fishermen who had lost their lives, both in Washington County and neighboring Charlotte County across the bay in New Brunswick. In August, the Lost Fishermen’s Memorial was unveiled. In this issue we hear from Tinker about how the community came together to make this memorial happen.

We hope you enjoy the October issue and look forward to hearing from you with your ideas for future stories.