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Department of Marine Resources
Lobster Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
Natural Resources Service Center
6 Beech Street, Hallowell
September 15, 2010 5:00 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), Jon Carter (Zone B), Dan MacDonald (Zone C), Ted Hoskins (General Public Member), Gerry Cushman (Zone D), Jeff Putnam (Zone F), Jim Henderson (Zone G), Peter McAleney (Western Dealer Member), Dana Rice, (Eastern Dealer) and Elliott Thomas (Non-Zone Lobsterman.) Members not present included: John Drouin (Zone A), Larry Knapp (Zone E) and Nick Lemieux (Non-Zone Lobsterman). Commissioner George Lapointe, Deputy Commissioner David Etnier, Sarah Cotnoir, Deirdre Gilbert, Carl Wilson, Colonel Joe Fessenden, Major Alan Talbot, Kathleen Reardon, Pat Keliher, Mike Brown and Donna Hall of the Department of Marine Resources were also present. Others present were: Chris Boulos, Patrice McCarron, Senator Dennis Damon, Representative Leila Percy, Eliot Cutler and Steve Train.

The meeting convened at 5:10 p.m.

1. Welcome and Review of Agenda

2. Approval of Minutes (May 20, 2010)

MOTION: (T. Hoskins and D. MacDonald) To accept the minutes of the May 20, 2010 meeting as written. Unanimous

3. New Business

a. Amendment 2 – River Herring – Patrick Keliher

Patrick Keliher, Director of the Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat with the Department of Marine Resources told the Lobster Advisory Council that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission passed Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring Management Plan.

Pat told the LAC that this new plan specifically directs each state to develop sustainability plans for each fishery and each river that fishery takes place in. The Department of Marine Resources first priority was to developed plans for each active in-river directed fisheries. Eighteen plans have been submitted to the Technical Advisory Committee for approval before being sent to the River Herring Management Board for final approval at the ASMFC's annual meeting in November. Additional measures are being developed for the coastal small mesh fisheries to provide additional protection to juvenile and post spawn migrants that congregate along the near-shore coast in the summer and fall. Additional regulation changes may be warranted. If so they will go out to public hearing in January of 2011.

Representative Leila Percy asked P. Keliher what is going on with alewives in the St. Croix River. Pat said the counts are up with the number of alewives returning to the St. Croix and the Governor’s Office will be sending out a letter in the near future to the International St. Croix River Watershed Board supporting the restoration of alewives to the St. Croix. Restoring passage at the Grand Falls Dam is the priority on the St Croix. The real problem Downeast remains the perception with alewives, the local guides do not believe alewives are native to the St Croix and also think they eat juvenile smallmouth bass. Landlocked alewives were illegally stocked and guides use this science to block sea run alewives. Guides brought this to the legislature in 1995 and that is why this problem has not been solved. Overall stocks have continued to decline with poor water quality, poor marine survival and lack of access to historic spawning habitat. We are now moving fish to places when we haven’t moved them in 100 years in an attempt to jumpstart local runs; anything we can do to improve river herring populations is a great thing for the ecology of our inland rivers and the Gulf of Maine.

MOTION: (G. Cushman and E. Thomas) To support sending a letter to the International St. Croix River Watershed Board from the Lobster Advisory Council in support of opening up the St. Croix River to alewives. Unanimous.

Deputy Commissioner David Etnier told the Lobster Advisory Council that Pat Keliher works very hard on these issues and does a very good job for you.

b. Status of Alternative Bait Research - David Etnier

Deputy Commissioner David Etnier told the Lobster Advisory Council members that he had made contact with Deb Bouchard who is working on the bait research project and she will likely report back in November and will be presented here in the future. Regulations will be put in to place if need be.

Patrice McCarron said there is somewhere around 10,000 pounds left before the herring quota is met; the catch has been slow but there are fish there; trawlers will be coming in to get them. Poggies are coming in; bait has been tight but not really a problem. Lots of fish; fish have acted strange. Dana Rice said if you’re old enough to remember this has happened before, people have to prepare for it.

Colonel Joe Fessenden said when mid-water trawls come in there will be issues; there is lots of quota left. There will be gear conflict problems; we need to figure out how to work through this. Downeast may be where the problems are because of the closure; we need to prepare for it.

c. Marketing Discussion Update – Deirdre Gilbert

Deirdre Gilbert gave an update on the status of the plan for marketing outreach. Following the May meeting of the LAC, the Commissioner worked with the Moseley group to determine if they would be able to assist in holding a series of meetings to bring case studies of other successful marketing efforts (Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Maine wild blueberries, farming co-ops such as Cabot, etc) to Maine. We tried to keep the proposal as narrowly focused as possible, but it still proved cost-prohibitive to contract with them for this service. Instead, the Department intends to work directly with ASMI to identify fishermen from Alaska that may be willing to come to Maine for a week to participate in a series of 3 coastal meetings and talk about how the efforts of ASMI have impacted them. A separate series of meetings with representatives from the blueberry industry could also be held.

Commissioner George Lapointe said I am struggling with the whole marketing issues just like you guys. Rep. Percy said this is what the Maine Lobster Promotion Council should be doing; it’s very frustrating to me. Bob Baines said we have talked about this at length and it is fair to say that we have no confidence in the MLPC. George said on the issue of outreach specifically; Dane Somers is working on a pilot program to test new markets, I asked that he concentrate on this. As far as the structure of the MLPC; people can decide what they want to do. Steve Train said the MLPC is lax, as well as lack of marketing. Bob Baines said the Department of Marine Resources is going to work on this. George said we are, but we need to do it right.

Pete McAleney said the price is higher this year than it was last year; fishermen are selling on the side of the road and this upsets the big boys. The price would be better if this would stop; I’m marketing and we could have paid the boys more if this would not have happened this year. Dana Rice said some have been talking about marketing; if you are going to promote the product someone has to pay for it and if you are going to do an outreach program we need to start it right here. In the last year or two there has been very little resistance; we need to sit down and talk and then move ahead.

Bob said to move it along we need more than the DMR to do it; we’ve discussed this at length at more than one meeting. Commissioner Lapointe said people say I want a guarantee, look at what kind of support we got from the Lobster Zone Councils; expand markets outside of Maine; I am open for suggestions. Dana said if you were to do the outreach program you should pick 10-15 people that think this is a good idea and take them with you.

d. Alternative to License Suspension

Deputy Commissioner David Etnier reported that the Department of Marine Resources hired a second year law student Chris Boulos from the USM School of Law to research alternatives to the license suspension process used by other states in order to improve Maine’s conviction rate on marine enforcement cases. The DMR has been frustrated by losing well-documented enforcement cases during jury trials. Research revealed that Maine is the only east coast state in which its fisheries agency does not have the ability to suspend fishing licenses after making a determination that there has been a violation of a marine resource law.

Presently the DMR can only pursue suspension if a person is found guilty to make a finding on the facts of the case and then make a recommendation to the Commissioner for or against license suspension. This would provide a fair process if marine laws are violated. Individual cases would still proceed through the courts for the purpose of assessing fines, however consideration of license suspension would happen through this new hearing process. The hearing process decision could be appealed to a judge, but only to determine whether or not a decision was made fairly.

David told the LAC that we may need your support on this as it will be controversial and some may say it is a power grab; however we are trying to take the lead from other states. Bob Baines said there will be future discussion before the Marine Resource Committee. David said we recently have had two good cases go down the tubes.

David mentioned that on October 4th there is a hearing on several cases in law court. One very important case is Maine’s DMR jurisdiction in federal waters. It’s a public venue; a dragger that was in federal waters was summonsed for 28 oversized lobsters from Area 1. The fisherman is contesting if Marine Patrol had any jurisdictions in federal waters.

e. Funding for Lobster Programs – Commissioner Lapointe

• Trap Tag Increase – ongoing research, enforcement and landing program requirements

Commissioner Lapointe reported that lobster trap tag fees will be increased by ten cents in 2011, bringing the cost per tag to fifty cents. This ten cent increase will be used to hire one marine patrol officer, support the landings program, lobster research programs (sea sampling, port sampling and the juvenile lobster surveys) and support of lobster programs in general. The Commissioner said he will send a letter to all lobstermen explaining the fee increase; it is never popular to do an increase but it needs to be done to keep the lobster programs going.

Chair Bob Baines said he agrees that it needs to be done and asked the Commissioner if Marine Patrol will be able to fill their vacancies with the additional ten cents. The Commissioner said they will be able to get funding for one vacancy. The Lobster Advisory Council suggested that this letter include a report on how the full fifty cents is expended, rather than just an explanation of the additional ten cent fee.

4. Reports and Updates

a. DMR Updates

o Legislative Update

David Etnier reported that the Department of Marine Resources had submitted five bills to the Legislature for consideration but the way it will work is the newly elected Governor’s office will have to approve them in order for them to go forward; we won’t know until after the 1st of the year. Only one of these bills is lobster related and it is a technical change; we are defining the word temporality, not to exceed 1 year.

We have run up against problems with situations as it plays out politically; pressure gets put on us. With this change the vessel operator can not exceed 1 year. There have been some circumstances with folks that can no longer do the work, they cannot even go on the vessel; it goes on and on. We have been put on the spot, then we are told we have to do it. Dennis Damon said it is possible this bill may not even see the light of day. David Etnier said it is of a technical nature so more than likely it will.

o Patrol Update

Colonel Joe Fessenden reported that Marine Patrol has been dealing with trap cutting complaints in Downeast, Mid-Coast and southern Maine. York County now has only three officers; there are four other positions vacant. We have two Officers enrolled in the Criminal Justice Academy right now that will graduate just before Christmas. They will be working will their Field Training Officer in January. One MPO will go to York County and the other one to the Mid-Coast; hopefully we will have two others start the Academy in January.

Colonel Fessenden introduced Major Alan Talbot to the members of the Lobster Advisory Council who was promoted in July and will serve as his Deputy Chief. Major Talbot has served as the Bureau’s Lieutenant of the Division II Office in Lamoine since 2000 and will now be working out of the Bureau of Marine Patrol’s Headquarters in Hallowell. Dale Sprowl has recently been promoted to Lieutenant of Division II to replace Major Talbot; we will soon be filling the Sergeant’s position that Lt. Sprowl vacated.

o DMR Rule-Making Update

Deputy Commissioner David Etnier told the council that the DMR Advisory Council met earlier today and approved the proposed rule making as follows:

Chapter 11.09 Atlantic Sea Scallop Harvesting Season; 11.10(1)(D)&(E) Atlantic Sea Scallops Limitations; 11.10(1)(H) Closed Areas; and 11.19(1)(B), (C) & (D) Cobscook Bay

Chapter 25.04 Lobster Trawl Limits on Casco Bay

Chapter 25.97 Management Framework for Island Limited Entry Program

Chapter 55.90, 41.30 Menhaden Pilot Program

Commissioner Lapointe told the Lobster Advisory Council that the upcoming shrimp season would be set in New Hampshire at the ASMFC meeting on November 3rd. The Commissioner also reported that he met with BOERME (Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement) this week. Their idea is to look at wind energy outside of 10 miles and how we share uses of the ocean. Gerry Cushman asked - when you say 10 miles; from any point of land. George said 10 miles from an inhabited island view shed; we will continue to talk about wind energy and how you share the bottom.

Rep. Leila Percy told the Lobster Advisory Council that there are several “Meet the Candidate’s” night coming up and forums to meet the candidates for the upcoming Governor’s race and it would be important for fishermen to try to attend.

5. Set Next Meeting Date and Agenda

The next Lobster Advisory Council Meeting is scheduled for November 17th at 4:00 pm

Meeting adjourned 7:20 pm