Coastal Outlook

Thoughts from MLCA President Patrice McCarron
Some people start to slow down as the season moves from summer into fall. Others, like Maine’s lobstermen, remain in high gear, hauling lobsters from the Gulf of Maine by the hundreds of pounds each day while growing increasingly concerned about the future.
In this edition Landings continues its coverage of the North Atlantic right whale dilemma facing New England lobstermen. The whales, another of which was found dead in September after having been entangled in Canada, are at the root of a new rule under development by the National Marine Fisheries Service that calls for Maine lobstermen to reduce risk to right whales by 60%. Disagreements about critical whale data led the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) to withdraw from the April Take Reduction Team agreement on the management approach recommended to stem the decline of the species. Since then, the tempest about what to do to protect the endangered whales has not slackened in the least, as our lead article this month highlights.

Ensuring that young lobstermen can pursue the path they choose has been the mission of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association since 1954. MLA photo.

To counter the onslaught of regulatory and legal assaults against the Maine lobster fishery, the MLA, Maine’s oldest and largest fishermen’s organization, this month announced the expansion of its legal defense team. Jane Luxton, a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Lewis Brisbois, joins MLA’s longtime lawyer, Mary Anne Mason, to represent the MLA on multiple fronts. From 2007 to 2009, Luxton served as general counsel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), advising senior decisionmakers on legal and policy issues related to fisheries management, endangered species and marine mammal protection.
“The MLA has assembled the talent and the strategy. Now we are asking anyone who cares about the future of the Maine lobster industry to support MLA’s Legal Defense Fund. The future of our industry is at stake,” said Patrice McCarron, MLA executive director.
Landings continues its series on aquaculture in Maine this month. Two companies have applied for local, state and federal permits to construct large land-based facilities in Bucksport and Belfast in order to grow Atlantic salmon. The facilities would use recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) to grow the fish completely separate from the ocean. A 2019 study by The Nature Conservancy noted that RAS salmon systems “offer better environmental performance, higher production capacities per unit area and greater control over production outcomes than traditional penstocks,” yet the possibility of such large facilities on the coast has provoked a backlash among some local residents.
Two people concerned with the aquaculture sector offer their views on the growing industry this month. Crystal Canney is the spokesperson for Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage and has been part of the opposition to the planned expansion of an oyster farm in Maquoit Bay in Brunswick. Sebastian Belle is the executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, a membership organization which includes land-based aquaculture firms.
Marianne Lacroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, writes in her column this month about the activities of the Collaborative during this summer of whale controversies. The MLMC has completed an evaluation of its marketing strategy and organizational structure. It plans to redouble its efforts to promote the Maine lobster brand to targeted markets in the next year.
The Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-operative unveiled its new roof-top solar panel array in September. The 144 panels, installed by Sun Dog Solar of Searsport, are designed to produce 5200 kilowatts per year. Funding for the project came from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, the Island Institute of Rockland and Bar Harbor Bank and Trust. The panels are expected to save the co-op $370,000 in electricity costs over their lifetime. As co-op manager Mark Nighman said at the September 18 celebration on the island, “This is a great day to make energy!”
The MLA has been fortunate to have the longstanding support of businesses up and down the coast to support its work to protect Maine’s lobster resource and fishing heritage. In the next few months Landings will feature profiles of a few of the businesses whose enduring connections to the lobster industry and to the MLA are equally valued. This month we look at Lonnie’s Hydraulics of Topsham, a company that has been working with lobstermen since the early 1980s.
Landings also recaps the fourth annual Lobstermen’s Relief Fund benefit held at Cook’s Lobster & Ale House. The day-long event, organized by the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance, raises funds for fishing families affected by tragedy or illness. Fine local fare, including 125 pounds of lobsters donated by Luke’s Lobster, and enticing auction items resulted in crucial funds being raised.
We hope you enjoy this issue of Landings and look forward to your suggestions for future issues.