Department of Marine Resources
Lobster Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
Natural Resources Service Center
6 Beech Street, Hallowell
January 28, 2010 1:00 pm
A meeting of the Department of Marine Resources’ Lobster Advisory Council was held on this date at the Natural Resources Service Center, 6 Beech Street, Hallowell, Maine. Council members attending this meeting included: Chair Bob Baines (Non-Zone Lobsterman), John Drouin (Zone A), Jon Carter (Zone B), Dan MacDonald (Zone C), Gerry Cushman (Zone D), Larry Knapp (Zone E), Jim Henderson (Zone G), Nick Lemieux (Non-Zone Lobsterman), Peter McAleney (Western Dealer Member), and Elliott Thomas (Non-Zone Lobsterman.) Members not present included: Jeff Putnam (Zone F), Ted Hoskins (General Public Member), Dana Rice, (Eastern Dealer). Deputy Commissioner David Etnier, Deirdre Gilbert, Sarah Cotnoir, Colonel Joe Fessenden, Carl Wilson, Kathleen Reardon and Donna Hall of the Department of Marine Resources were also present. Others present were: Patrice McCarron, Wayne Canning, David Black, Gillian Garratt Reed, Annie Tselikis, Dan Staples, Nick Parker, Dan Holland, Lauren Simmons, Heather Tetreault and Heather Deese.
The meeting convened at 1:20 p.m.
1. Welcome and Review of Agenda
Chair Bob Baines said appointing a nominating committee for electing a Chairman will be added to the agenda.
2. Approval of Minutes (November 9, 2009) minutes not available
3. New Business
a. Bio-Economic Model for the Lobster Fishery - Dan Holland
Dan Holland from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute presented the Lobster Advisory Council with: A Retrospective Bio-Economic Model of The Maine Lobster Fishery. Basically the model looks back to prior years and does a retrospective analysis of how revenues, cost and profit would have differed if the effort and catch had been distributed differently over the year, or reduced. The main result is that profit could be substantially increased by reducing effort a good bit and shifting some catch into the winter, but that catch would still, optimally, be quite concentrated in the fall. The data for the model came from Port Sampling data from 1982-2007 and quarterly biomass estimates were from Yong Chen’s model.
Lobster Advisory Council members felt that much of the model had too many unknowns and assumptions and that better data would help improve the model. Suggestions were to continue the model while capturing better data on fixed costs, fuel and bait.
b. Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter – John Drouin
In light of the boat sinking’s in the Downeast Region, Lobster Advisory Council Member John Drouin asked the Lobster Advisory Council to consider contacting or writing a letter to the US Coast Guard about the need to have a Coast Guard helicopter based in Maine. Colonel Fessenden said he would recommend that LAC member Elliott Thomas take the matter to the Commercial Fishing Safety Council and have the CFSC make a recommendation back to the Lobster Advisory Council.
c. Bait Discussion
Bob Baines said he had asked the Department of Marine Resources to keep bait discussion on the agenda to keep an open dialogue going. Bob asked Carl Wilson if he was going to speak to the report “Determining the Health Risks of Lobster Bait to Marine Animals” that is in our packets. Carl said he would suggest that the LAC invite Deb Bouchard from the School of Marine Sciences at UMO to come to the next meeting to discuss this report. Deputy Commissioner Etnier said he knew that this report came out very recently and asked Carl if there is a way to provide a list of states that Maine may not want to get fish from. Carl said there are some states that are low risk.
d. Wet Storage
Gerry Cushman said that currently the fine for wet storage is $100.00; there is a guy in my area that hasn’t hauled for six months and he is right in the middle of a shrimp tow. Gerry said he would like to see this fine increased because this guy is being a real nuisance for us; he pollutes the ocean and it is not fair. Gerry said he had spoken with his MPO about this but nothing has been done. Jon Carter said I agree with Gerry; Marine Patrol calls them and says they are checking; it is the same one or two people down our way. If you had any pride at all you wouldn’t do it.
Colonel Joe Fessenden said we need to get compliance; this is the first I’ve heard of this down Gerry’s way this year. If the Officer is not taking care of it then we need to let the Lieutenant’s know so they can make sure the complaint is taken care . The Department of Marine Resources does suspend licenses for wet storage; I don’t think the fine will make a big difference; most of the time fishermen think we know who is who but that is not always the case. Marine Patrol requires MPO’s to document complaints whatever they might be and if it’s not followed through; we need to know. We seize gear after the 1st time and the next time we take a boat load. I talked with Lt. Talbot this morning and he told me he addressed this issue at the Zone C meeting; we seize and sell traps we also can suspend licenses for wet storage.
Gerry said we notified Marine Patrol about six weeks ago and it took two weeks for the gear to get tagged. I told the Officer that guys pretty much laugh about it when they get a ticket for this and pay a $100.00 fine. Colonel Fessenden said with a complaint like that Gerry we can bring another boat down; we have moved gear out of the tows before. Joe said losing traps is expensive; I will talk to both Lieutenants and see if we can do a better job with this. Sarah Cotnoir said the Zone C guys mentioned that maybe there should be a bigger deterrent to face especially with Marine Patrol being down on Officers. The Colonel said that Cathy Fetterman is still trying to get the new waiver fines for lobster violations approved by the Chief Judge..
Jon Carter asked if a guy has his boat out of the water do you have to wait the 30 days. Joe responded; no we do not have to wait. If someone is a repeat offender our Officers have the discretion to do what they need to do to take care of the complaint. Dan MacDonald said he thinks it’s time to make Marine Patrol’s job easier; it’s time for a season. Joe said that closing lobstering may be what we need to do to take care of this problem. Gerry asked can lobstermen help. Joe said yes; we can use you. David Etnier said we could move this out of regulation and put it in statue and put a higher fine if you want. Bob Baines said we need to table this and re-visit this matter at another time.
e. Monitoring Programs – Carl Wilson
Carl Wilson, Lobster Scientist for the Department of Maine Resources asked the Lobster Advisory Council for support to roll money over to the next year money that had been dedicated to support his programs: Lobster Port Sampling, Sea Sampling, Ventless Trap Survey and the Juvenile Index.
Carl sad these programs are vital to effective management of Maine’s lobster fishery. Data from the port and sea sampling programs, the ventless trap survey and the juvenile settlement index are critical to our understanding of the resource and contribute directly to lobster stock assessment. The improved knowledge generated through these programs will help enhance the economic viability of Maine's lobster fishery. Thousands of fishermen and hundreds of communities depend upon this resource. Should these programs cease, it is likely to create a cascading effect that may ultimately result in requests for government assistance that far exceed this current request.
MOTION: (G. Cushman and E. Thomas) To carry over $50K for Carl Wilson’s monitoring programs. Unanimous
f. Ocean Energy Update
Deirdre Gilbert, Special Assistant to the Commissioner gave the Lobster Advisory Council an update on the Ocean Energy Task Force. On December 15th, 2009 the Maine Department of Conservation (DOC) announced that they had selected three small areas in state waters along the Maine coast that could serve as demonstration areas for testing new offshore wind energy technologies. Three small portions of the planning areas off Boon Island, Damariscove Island, and Monhegan Island were identified as candidates to host offshore wind energy demonstration projects. Monhegan was designated as the University of Maine test site; University of Maine recently received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for this project. In the sites off of Boon Island and Damariscove Island, a commercial developer could apply for a permit that would allow them to test a maximum of two deep water offshore wind turbines, including floating platforms, anchoring systems, and new lightweight blade composites. They will also monitor the impacts, if any, of offshore wind systems on the environment. Deirdre said these test sites are supposed to be permanent.
Bob Baines said the he and Gerry Cushman attended this meeting and that Heather Deese from the Island Institute is working on a project to look at who uses which part of the bottom; this project could be used to state your case. Gerry said we need to pay attention to this bill.
g. 3-Year Mandatory Suspension
Deputy Commissioner David Etnier informed the Lobster Advisory Council that the Department of Marine Resources is continuing to have internal discussions in regards to the 3-Year Mandatory License Suspension. The Maine Marine Patrol has lost some excellent cases because juries hear about this suspension and sympathize with the defendant. The Marine Patrol is looking in to alternative models to suspend licenses and may have a proposal to take to the Marine Resources Committee in the next Legislative session. David said perhaps we are losing cases because it is a 3 year mandatory suspension.
Elliott Thomas asked do you think making it a one year suspension would make a difference. Colonel Fessenden said in my opinion whenever we make something mandatory it takes the discretion away from the Department. When folks are making $150K they have no problem paying for an attorney. In one case we had an eye witness; the person saw someone pull up a buoy, cut the line and throw the buoy. The attorney asked the question how the Officer knew there was a trap on the end of that buoy. We have been thinking about coming up with a board; we need to have a deterrent; at this point we have 6-8 months to come up with it to take before the Legislature. Bob asked if the language is changed is there any assurance that their license would be suspended; what assurance would the industry have. David said amend the law to decrease the mandatory to 1 year with up to a 3 year suspension; the DMR is working on the language and we can have a sub-committee if you like; we want the Lobster Advisory Council’s opinion. Elliott said now that we have heard this why don’t you come back to us when you have a proposal and see what we think of it.
Larry Knapp said we have a second offense in Zone E. The Colonel said that guy has been convicted and the Commissioner is going to sign a 3-year suspension. Jon Carter said there are alternative ways; this council was suppose to meeting with judges along time ago in these areas to make them more aware maybe we should do that than change something. Elliott said the juries are tossing them out not the judges.
Sarah Cotnoir said the comments from the Zone Councils were all over the place; my thought was maybe we should have a sub-committee on this. Pete McAleney said that lawyers are smarter than mandatory laws; people that have money can beat it. Dana Rice said this needs attention; we need to look at it from all angles. David said he liked the idea of one person from each end of the coast working on this to help present ideas. Joe said that the District Attorney Jeff Rushlow has been working on this and his recommendation is to keep the violation in the court system and have the Department deal with the suspension. I think it is a good idea to have the fishermen send a letter to the judges. Bob Baines said we will add an agenda item to form a Sub-committee on this for the next Lobster Advisory Council meeting.
h. Nominating Committee to Elect Lobster Advisory Council Chairman
Council members Elliott Thomas, Jon Carter and Jim Henderson volunteered to be the nominating committee to recommend the election of a Chairman and will report back at the next Lobster Advisory Council meeting.
4. Reports and Updates
a. DMR Updates
o Legislative Update
Deputy Commissioner David Etnier told the Lobster Advisory Council that the Department of Maine Resources had recently gone out to all the Zone Council meetings and talked about the 4 major bills that will go to public hearing next week before the Marine Resource Committee. David explained the following bills and asked the LAC to vote on each one so he could report back to the MRC:
LD 1560: An Act to Eliminate the 3-trap Limit in the Waters off Hancock County.
David explained that at present, there are three areas designated in statute as “areas of limited lobster fishing” where it is unlawful to have more than three lobster traps on a trawl. These are west of Cape Elizabeth and east of Kittery, between Pemaquid and Robinson’s Points, and off of Hancock County. DMR was requested by some fishermen in Zone C to consider whether it might be possible to modify the “trawl line” off of Hancock County to allow more flexibility to fish larger trawls in certain offshore areas where it is currently prohibited. But because these particular areas are designated in statute, DMR cannot amend them through our regular rule-making process. These statutes were originally put in place in 1977. Since that time, the Legislature has created the Zone Councils, and gave them the authority to make recommendations on the number of lobster traps allowed on a trawl. In this case, the Council’s ability to exercise this authority is precluded by the existing statute. The proposed bill would strike the existing trawl limits, so that the Councils could craft their recommendations with regard to what trawl limits are appropriate in what areas of their Zones. The LAC voted unanimously to support this bill.
LD 1584: An Act to Require That Marine Resources Dealers Purchase Only from Licensed Harvesters
Deputy Commissioner Etnier explained the need for this legislation was brought forward by the DMR Landings Program. This Program contributes to monitoring the health of Maine’s fisheries and the seafood industry through the collection of landings and catch statistics. Since reporting by all dealers became mandatory in 2008, the Landings Program has been working to address the problems that have been identified. One of these problems is the large number of instances in which the dealer is reporting the harvester as “unknown”. When this occurs, it is impossible to distinguish whether the harvester is in fact unknown to the dealer, or whether the harvester is unlicensed, and therefore the dealer has no license number to report. At present, it is not illegal for a dealer to buy from an unlicensed harvester. This proposed change in law would require dealers to purchase products only from harvesters who hold the appropriate license, and further, would require harvesters to produce their license at the dealer’s request, in order to assist dealers in complying with this requirement. Harvesters are already required by law (§6305) to be in possession of their license, when engaged in the activities authorized by their license. The LAC voted 9 in favor and 1 opposed on this bill.
LD 1593: An Act to Amend the Lobster Meat Laws and Expand Economic Opportunity for Maine's Lobster Industry
David explained that the Maine’s lobster fishery experienced a precipitous drop in their boat price in the fall of 2008. In response, the Governor created the Task Force on the Economic Sustainability of Maine’s Lobster Industry. The Task Force hired the Moseley Group to conduct a diagnostic analysis of the industry, and develop a strategic plan. A key finding of the Moseley Group, which resulted in the submission of this legislation, was that the Maine lobster industry is not competing effectively to meet market conditions, and that market segments and offerings need to be broadened to increase penetration and stabilize price. Specifically, it was determined that Maine stands at a disadvantage because its processors are not able to generate certain products that their competitors in other states and in Canada are able to offer. Maine has long-standing “mutilation” laws, which were designed and supported as a mechanism to prevent illegal lobsters from being taken and processed. This bill proposes to create the authority, through the establishment of a new processor license, for legitimate lobster processing businesses to process lobsters that meet Maine’s legal standards into products that are not currently legal to possess. The LAC voted unanimously to support this bill.
LD 1604: An Act to Clarify the Marine Resources Laws to Provide for the Protection of Public Safety and Welfare
David said that during the summer of 2009, territorial disputes around Matinicus Island resulted in the use of firearms, and an individual being shot and severely injured. DMR, combined with other County, State and Federal agencies, acted quickly to preserve the peace, reduce the risk of further human injury and prevent the additional loss of lobster gear. One of the most decisive actions DMR took was to institute an immediate closure to all lobster fishing activities in the area surrounding Matinicus Island. As the legal basis for that action the Department utilized its emergency rule making authority under 12 M.R.S.A. Section 6171-A, Gear Conflict, and also the emergency rule making authority found under 5 M.R.S.A. Section 8054 regarding an agency’s ability to take actions “to avoid an immediate threat to public health, safety or general welfare”. The purpose this proposed legislation is to clarify that DMR has the authority to adopt emergency regulations “when necessary to avoid an immediate threat to public safety or welfare”. Specifically we wish to clarify that DMR has the authority to adopt “rules governing area closures when necessary to address conflicts among persons who fish commercially that may cause the threat of harm to any person”. The LAC voted 8 in favor and 2 opposed on this bill.
o Rulemaking B/C Double Tagging
David Etnier said the comment period for the B/C double tagging rule closed on December 17th and the Department of Maine Resources Advisory Council votes on the proposed rule on February 17th. Bob Baines asked the LAC to take a vote on this proposed rule so he would know the opinion before going to the DMR Advisory Council meeting.
MOTION: (J. Carter and D. MacDonald) To support the B/C Double Tagging Proposed Rule. Unanimous
o ASMFC Update
Addendum XVI will be voted on next week; it changes the reference points of the model.
5. Other Business
Patrice McCarron Executive Director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association told the Lobster Advisory Council that Lobstermen from around the world will travel to Maine as part of the Lobstermen’s Exchange organized by MLA.
The exchange will take place between March 4th and the 15th. Up to seven lobstermen from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada will meet lobstermen at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland March 4-6 where they will participate in seminars and other events. Exchange participants will stay with local lobstermen in their homes, in addition to touring local communities and wharves.
Jon Carter said at the last Zone B Lobster Council meeting we were told that the DMR is down about 8 Marine Patrol Officers and since that meeting I have had a lot of questions about that; lobstermen don’t understand why if the trap tag fees were increased why are those position not being filled. David Etnier said that trap tags pay for 5-6 Marine Patrol Officers and all of those positions are filled; most MP are paid for out of the General Fund. With all of the budget cuts we have taken some hits and we have had to leave some positions vacant including Marine Patrol Officers.
6. Set Next Meeting Date and Agenda
The date for the next Lobster Advisory Council meeting will be on February 24th.
Meeting adjourned 4:40 pm