In the News: October 2019

Money for new lobster markets
Food Export USA–Northeast will provide $20 million in funding from its Agriculture Trade Promotion Program to all food exporters, with a special focus on helping the New England lobster industry gain new markets. The industry has been hit hard by the trade war with China. New initiatives will also focus on growing international markets for seafood products, such as Jonah crabs and oysters that are in ample supply and could benefit from market diversification. In 2009, the European Union (EU) represented two-thirds of all foreign market lobster consumption. By 2013, China had become the leading foreign-market destination for American lobster exports. In addition to losing sales to China due to the trade war, sales have been lost to the EU due to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), which gives Canada’s lobster industry a competitive advantage over American lobster exporters. The funds will allow Food Export–Northeast to help companies find new opportunities for American lobster products and to rebuild those tariff-impacted markets once trade barriers are removed. 

Too damn hot
August 2019 was the second-hottest August on record globally. It was also tied with 2016 for the hottest Northern Hemisphere summer (June through August). The heat shrank Arctic sea ice coverage to the second smallest for the month on record. For the year-to-date, 2019 is the third-warmest year on record after 2016 and 2017. According to NOAA, nine of the 10 highest June-through-August global land and ocean surface temperatures have occurred since 2009.

Lobster molt less predictable
Variation in lobster molt timing has been increasing in recent years and is related to changing ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, according to a new University of Maine study. The study was spurred by an extreme shift in timing of lobster landings in 2012, when they landed much earlier than usual. This shift was attributed to early molt and coincided with a warming trend that began in 2004. Using logistic models and Department of Marine Resources lobster sea sampling data, the study’s authors found differences in the pattern of initial molt timing and suddenness between regions, sexes and stages of maturity of the lobsters and studied the potential effects of seasonal temperatures on initial molt timing. Warmer temperatures were usually associated with earlier molt, according to the researchers, but that relationship was not uniform across seasons, regions or lobster demographics. In conclusion, the study noted that lobster molt timing has become much less predictable in recent years.

NOAA Grant made for lobster research
In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program has awarded $2 million to support a range of research projects to advance understanding of the American lobster. Two University of Maine professors, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve were the four Maine recipients. Maine Sea Grant also plans to launch a regional lobster extension program that will link the research with industry.

Erin Summers, Charlotte Ekstrom Honored by Maine DMR
In September at a ceremony at the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) offices in West Boothbay Harbor, DMR Commissioner Keliher awarded Erin Summers the Manager of the Year Award for her work on right whale protection efforts and Charlotte Ekstrom the Employee of the Year Award for providing exceptional customer service in the licensing division.

Left to rifht, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher and awardees Erin Summers and Charlotte Ekstrom. DMR photo.

Three Charged with Violating Laws Intended to Protect Rebuilding Atlantic Herring Stock
In September the Maine Marine Patrol issued citations to three men for violating laws designed to protect the Atlantic herring fishery which has faced serious quota reductions in recent years. Glenn Robbins, 72 of Eliot, owner and captain of the fishing vessel Western Sea, has been charged with exceeding the weekly limit of 160,000 pounds of herring, and with failing to file accurate reports of his harvest. Ethan Chase, 42 of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who also operated Robbins vessel, was cited for failing to properly notify DMR prior to landing and for exceeding the weekly harvest limit in September by over 110,000 pounds of herring, all of which was seized by Marine Patrol. Dustin Reed, owner of wholesale seafood dealer New Moon Fisheries, has also been charged with failure to report herring he purchased and failure to hold a permit to buy and sell herring.
The charges against Robbins, Chase and Reed could result in fines of $100 per violation. However, while the civil fines are limited under law, the Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources has the authority to suspend harvester and dealer licenses for failure to comply with reporting requirements and for exceeding landings limits. “These violations are nothing short of a blatant disregard of the rules that protect Atlantic herring,” said Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “Mr. Robbins has attended many herring management meetings over the years to speak to the need to protect this industry from overfishing. His actions and those of his crew are directly counter to his publicly stated positions. This is disappointing, to say the least.”