Coastal Outlook: Thoughts from MLCA President Patrice McCarron

When December rolls around, waterfront patterns begin to shift along the Maine coast. Many lobstermen have pulled their traps and hauled their boats from the water. Lobster dealers have put up a stock of lobsters, in saltwater pounds and in land facilities, to meet the strong holiday demand in the U.S. and abroad. As the lobster boats leave the water, the scallopers take to the sea. The Maine scallop season begins on December 1 and, if recent years are any indication, it should be a profitable one this year as well. Sadly, shrimpers are not preparing their gear this season. With stocks still deeply depressed, that fishery will remain closed through 2021.
Maine’s multiple fisheries will be the responsibility of Maine’s next Governor, Janet Mills, and the Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). At the time of publication, Mills had not yet named the nominee for that position. However, Mills herself spoke about the qualifications she would seek in that individual during the Seafood Industry’s gubernatorial candidates forum in Rockland on October 6. This month Landings reports on Mills’ thoughts on the right whale issue, offshore wind power, working waterfronts and other matters related to Maine’s fishing industry from a transcript of that evening’s discussions.

Photo by Mark Fleming.

Landings also continues its series “Voices of the Fishermen’s Forum,” courtesy of Maine Sea Grant. Dan Harriman is a mackerel fisherman from Cape Elizabeth who uses a fish trap to capture the schooling fish. He sets his trap around Richmond Island in Casco Bay, an area in which his family has fished since the 1890s. Harriman has a decided view when it comes how fishermen pursue their prey today. He laments the loss of traditional fishing knowledge: “I bet you that there’s …. not so many that could teach you how to set up a weir or a pound net or how to jig fish or how to trap blackbacks.”
In our “People of the Coast” series, Landings talks with Amy Lent, executive director of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Lent followed a different sort of path to her current position, one that started, of all places, at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. During her twelve years as director, Lent has overseen numerous new permanent exhibits at the museum, including the popular “Lobstering and the Coast of Maine,” as well as expanded community educational programs. As Lent said about the Museum, “The purpose is for people to come here and say ‘Wow! I had no idea that Maine’s maritime heritage had such an impact on America and still does. I want to know more!’”
DMR biologist Jesica Waller gives an update on the Lobster Research Collaborative’s projects. The Collaborative was created by DMR earlier this year to coordinate lobster research in the state and is funded through the Lobster Research, Education and Development (RED) fund. This summer the Collaborative funded an array of scientific studies related to lobster. Waller reports on the importance of bringing the research community together to further our understanding of Maine’s most valuable marine resource and provides an update on projects funded through the collaborative.
Landings also dives into the complicated world of fishing vessel engines. The EPA implemented regulations for large marine engines, called Tier 4 standards, last year that are designed to reduce emissions to help meet air quality standards. The problem with the Tier 4 requirements is that no engine manufacturers actually make engines to those standards yet. Plus, as Mack Boring product support specialist Peter Emerson points out in this month’s article, even if there were such engines available they would be unsuitable and unsafe for the offshore lobster fleet’s needs. Emerson and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association worked with Maine’s delegation and petitioned EPA to take a hard look at the practicality of those regulations, an effort that has had some positive results.
Finally, it’s not just the big things, like the boat’s engine, the weather, or lobster prices, that can affect a lobsterman’s life. Little things, like an unseen virus, can knock even the sturdiest lobsterman down like a bowling pin. That’s why getting a flu vaccine is so important, as we note in this month’s issue. Influenza killed more than 80,000 people last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Getting this year’s flu vaccine, even as late as January, can reduce your likelihood of getting the illness by 40% to 60%. And the vaccine is largely covered by Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. So go get your flu shot!
And remember, we welcome your ideas about future stories in Landings.