In the News

Activities in Grey Zone due to navigation aids
Lobstermen in Zone A noticed a flurry of activity around North Rock, off Machias Seal Island, this fall. This island is in disputed waters between Canada and U.S. known as the grey zone. According to the U.S. State Department, the activity was part of a joint effort between the two countries to reestablish an aid to navigation on North Rock. Under an existing agreement, Canada is responsible for constructing the navigation tower and the U.S. for setting up an “electronic signaling device.” The Canadians constructed a helicopter landing pad, there on North Rock, which was required for the construction and maintenance of the new aid to navigation. The State Department noted that under longstanding international legal interpretation, this sort of construction activity is understood to not further either nation’s claim to disputed territory.

New scallop dragger licenses awarded
Four men won the right to apply for new scallop licenses, the first issued since 2009, in a Department of Marine Resources lottery in November. Matthew Alley from Beals Island, Chase Fitzsimmons from Lubec, Johnathon Oliver from Deer Isle, and Frank Gott from Bar Harbor were the lucky winners. The new licenses are the result of a limited-entry system mandated by the Maine Legislature. Each year through a lottery two individuals will be awarded eligibility for a drag license for every three individuals who did not renew their drag license in the previous calendar year. One of the licenses issued will go to an individual over the age of 18 and under the age of 31, and one of the licenses will go to an individual 31 years of age or older. One person will also be awarded license eligibility for every person who held a commercial dive license but did not renew the license in the previous calendar year. Since no dive licenses were retired in 2017, there were no dive licenses available in the lottery. Of the 1,290 lottery entrants, 401 applied for the 18-30 category and 889 applied for the 31 years and older category.

Massachusetts requests wind farm leases include fishing area exclusions
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to ask him to consider eliminating the highest-priority fishing areas from future leases for offshore wind projects, particularly in the New York Bight, a heavily fished area south of Long Island. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has begun evaluating potential locations in the New York Bight for possible wind farms. “Some of the areas under consideration for leasing represent very productive and high-value grounds for fishermen from Massachusetts and other states,” Baker said in the letter.

Boothbay Harbor working waterfront under siege
Boothbay Harbor was included in Maine Preservation’s annual list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in the state, released in November. The town’s working waterfront has been the subject of conflict over commercial development in recent years. The historic preservation group’s designation adds to the latest waterfront issue, a rezoning proposal that would allow hotels, recreational marinas and housing in a Maritime Zone on the east side of the harbor. The district is the site of three of the four wholesale and lobstering businesses in town. Boothbay Harbor and neighboring Boothbay have experienced dramatic development in recent years, led largely by liquor baron Paul Coulombe, who built a multimillion-dollar mansion on nearby Pratt’s Island. During the past six years, Coulombe has purchased more than 50 properties in the Boothbay area.

Shellfish species experience downturn due to warmer climate
Valuable species of shellfish have become harder to find on the East Coast because of degraded habitat caused by a warming environment, according to two scientists who sought to find out whether environmental factors or overfishing was the source of the decline. Clyde MacKenzie, a NOAA shellfish researcher and Mitchell Tarnowski, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, concluded that the decline in the harvest of eastern oysters, northern quahogs, softshell clams and northern bay scallops in coastal areas from Maine to North Carolina was primarily due to warming waters. One of the ways warming has negatively impacted shellfish is by making them more susceptible to predation.

Clearwater Seafoods photographs lobsters to determine quality
Clearwater Seafoods, a Nova Scotian seafood company, was granted a U.S. patent for a system that better identifies how suitable a lobster is for market. The camera-based system is expected to determine the meat content and quality of lobsters as they ride a conveyor belt during processing. According to the U.S. Patent Office, Clearwater Seafoods was granted a patent in November for its new system. It consists of a camera that photographs the lobster using visible, infrared and ultraviolet light spectrums. By comparing the patterns established with these images, the software can determine a lobster’s molt stage, according to the patent filing.