In the News

Environmental groups sue feds over seismic testing
A group of conservation organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Oceana, have asked a federal judge to block the start of seismic exploration in the Atlantic Ocean until the case can be fully heard in court. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the motion for a preliminary injunction filed in federal court in Charleston, S.C., contends that the Trump administration’s seismic survey go-ahead violates three federal laws: the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The filing asserts that the federal government “failed to consider the combined effects of overlapping and simultaneous surveys, which are greater than the effects of individual seismic-blasting boats,” and, in addition, “erroneously determined that only a ‘small number’ of whales and dolphins would be harmed.”

Petition calls for new aquaculture regulations
Critics of a Brunswick aquaculture proposal have organized a citizen petition asking the state to limit where new aquaculture operations are sited in Maine’s coastal waters. Petitioners claim the surge in new licenses affects where lobstermen can drop traps. A 40-acre oyster farm proposed in Maquoit Bay in Brunswick by Mere Point Oyster Co. is a flashpoint in the debate.
The Department of Marine Resources current aquaculture evaluation process includes making sure a new lease will not unreasonably interfere with navigation, waterfront access, fishing or other uses of the area, result in unreasonable noise or interfere with wildlife and marine habitat. Petitioners want an immediate, statewide moratorium on pending lease applications bigger than 10 acres. They also want the state to add rules that would allow it to consider whether a nearby location or different lease boundaries would better balance competing water uses.

2018 scallop season took a downturn
Maine’s 2018 scallop harvest fell by 37 percent in value and by 30 percent in volume from the prior year, according to state officials. Despite the dropoff, the fishery continues to be relatively productive and lucrative compared to its poor condition in the 2000s. Maine scallop fishermen netted 563,000 pounds of scallop meat with a cumulative dockside value of $5.9 million in 2018, continuing a streak of six straight years in which the fishery has produced nearly half a million pounds or more of scallop meat and at least $5 million in statewide landings value. The 2018 drop can be attributed to exceptional numbers the fishery had in 2017, when it hit a 20-year high in volume and its highest value in nearly 25 years. Over the past decade, with the state’s new management system in place, there has been a surge in demand for scallops, which has boosted the price to historic highs. In 2012 the average price paid to scallop fishermen rose above $10 per pound for the first time, and it has stayed there every year since, hitting a record high of $12.81 per pound in 2016 and settling last year at $10.54 per pound.

NOAA photo.

Keeping an eye on elvers
For the 2019 elver season, the Department of Marine Resources added a requirement that baby eel exporters notify the Maine Marine Patrol 48 hours before preparing to pack and ship the eels. The officer will then witness the packing. The new rule’s designed to deter illegal sales of the valuable fish. Elvers are almost always worth more than $1,000 per pound at docks. They’re then sold to Asian aquaculture companies so they can raised to maturity for use as food.

Salmon farming does not harm lobsters, says new study
An eight-year study of lobsters living below a salmon farm off New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island found the aquaculture operation had no impact on the crustaceans’ abundance, size or growth.The peer-reviewed, industry-funded study was published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. The study involved divers visiting a sample area under the Benson Aquaculture salmon farm at Cheney Head off Grand Manan in 2008, and returning every August and September. To establish a baseline, surveying started before the fish farm opened. The study covered two production cycles at the farm, which has been opposed by lobster fishermen because the company uses pesticides to control sea lice. It also included a fallow period and a farm expansion to 336,000 fish from 10,000 during the second production cycle. An identical survey was conducted about a kilometre outside the farm. By the time the project ended in 2015, divers had counted 1,255 lobsters inside the farm and 1,171 outside.

Bill to foster new fishermen introduced
Maine Rep. Jared Golden and Alaskan Rep. Don Young introduced new bipartisan legislation to address the longtime decline in younger Americans entering the commercial fishing industry. Golden and Young introduced H.R. 1240, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act with original cosponsors Representatives Seth Moulton (MA) and Aumua Amata (American Samoa). The bill creates the first ever national grant program through the Department of Commerce to support training, education, and workplace development for the nation’s next generation of commercial fishermen.
The Young Fisherman’s Development Act would authorize up to $200,000 in competitive grants through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program to support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen. The grant program outlined in the bill is modeled on the Department of Agriculture’s successful Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.