In The News- March 2022

Lobster Facing The “Red List”
The Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch program is considering adding North American lobster from both the U.S. and Canadian fisheries to its “red list.” Seafood Watch, which is supposed to help consumers make informed choices about sustainable seafood, rates fisheries as green for “best choice,” yellow for “good alternative” and red for “avoid.” The program’s draft assessment “recommends to avoid American lobster caught by trap from Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine stocks due to risks to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and insufficient measures for reducing these risks.” The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative executive director Marianne Lacroix noted, “Monterey Bay Aquarium’s decision would ignore the [Maine lobster] industry’s long history of adapting gear and fishing practices to protect North Atlantic right whales and undermines the newly enacted federal regulations designed to provide additional protections”. It is unclear when the recommendation might be finalized. Inclusion on the red list would be in effect for roughly five years.

New Bill to Fund Collaborative Whale Research
U.S. Senators Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, Tom Carper, and Sheldon Whitehouse in February introduced the Right Whale Coexistence Act, which would authorize $15 million annually until 2032 to fund collaborative research among government, non-government entities and maritime industries to mitigate impacts on the North Atlantic right whale population. If the bill passes, the grants will be open to tribal agencies, research institutions, nonprofit organizations, vessel owners and operators, members of maritime industries and others with “required expertise.” A similar bill has also been introduced in the U.S. House.

Seafood Processor Grant Program Funded
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made $50 million available to support seafood processors, processing facilities and processing vessels through the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program (SPRS). The program is funded by the Pandemic Assistance provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The Maine Department of Marine Resources will administer the $850,184 awarded to the state.

China Not Buying Enough Lobster
Maine’s congressional leaders say China has failed to live up to its promise to buy more Maine lobster under a deal negotiated under former President Donald Trump’s administration. Maine’s lobster industry was hurt by retaliatory Chinese tariffs in 2018 and has failed to see substantial export gains after China committed to buying an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods. Under the “Phase One Agreement,” China was supposed to increase purchases above 2017 levels. But China has bought “almost no lobster above 2017 levels”, according to a letter from by Senator Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Jared Golden to U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai. Republican Sen. Susan Collins earlier sent a letter voicing the same concerns and urging “swift and appropriate action.”

Here Comes The Cat

Photo courtesy Ferries.ca.

The high-speed passenger ferry known as The Cat will begin running from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine on May 19. The season will begin with four crossings a week on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday, then expand to seven days a week on June 23. The Cat ferry stopped service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia in 2009 and ended service to Portland in 2018. Nova Scotia taxpayers paid $8.5 million to renovate Bar Harbor’s ferry terminal and to move a loading ramp from the Portland terminal.

More Wind Massachusetts Projects Planned by Spanish Company
Spanish energy company Iberdrola announced that it will invest more than $10 billion to develop three offshore wind facilities in Massachusetts. Iberdrola chairman Ignacio Galán agreed to develop three offshore wind facilities, each with 2.8 GW of capacity, at a meeting with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in February. Iberdrola’s energy services company, Avangrid, recently began building the 800 MW Vineyard Wind One offshore wind facility located around 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Electronic Vessel Tracking on Federal Lobster Boats
ASMFC’s Lobster Board met in late February to discuss a proposal to require electronic vessel tracking for federal lobster boats. Based on feedback from the public, ASMFC delayed its final vote to collect more information. During public comments, lobstermen raised many questions about the tracking devices, costs to industry, and standard procedures that would need to be followed by harvesters and states to successfully implement requirements for electronic vessel tracking. The board plans to meet this spring to make its final decision.

DMR Seeks 3 boats for Ventless Trap Program

Maine DMR seeks three industry participants to fish 80-100 small mesh traps rigged as triples at random sites as part of the ventless trap program. Each trap will be baited and hauled twice each month on three night soaks making a total three day commitment each month. Vessels are needed to cover three areas 1) Addison to MDI, 2) Pemaquid to Casco Bay, and 3) Casco Bay. This is a competitive bid process. Interested participants must complete the application to identify vessel specifications, daily rate and preferred sampling leg. Applications are due March 15, 2022. FMI: www.maine.gov/dmr/about/ventless.html or contact Kathleen Reardon at kathleen.reardon@maine.gov or (207) 350-7440.

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