DMR Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
May 21, 2008
Members Present: Chair Dana Rice, Rod Mitchell, Al West, Dana Temple, Tim Harper, Jim Wadsworth, Susan Farady, Vincent Balzano, Glen Libby.
DMR staff present: Commissioner George Lapointe, Samantha Horne-Olsen, John Sowles, Kohl Kanwit, Amy Fitzpatrick, Togue Brawn.
Dana Welcomed everyone, meeting called to order at 1:12
First item: Election of officers: Offer of Chair: Dana Rice; Vice Chair David Pecci; Secretary Al West.
Vincent moved to accept, Glen seconded. Unanimously approved
Second Item: Approval of minutes: Al West moved to accept, seconded by Rod Mitchell, approved unanimously.
Definitions Limited Purpose Aquaculture License Update:
Samantha explained: These are mostly technical updates, first section a statutory change that allows municipal shellfish committees to hold an LPA for a small amount of aquaculture. These are typically used for softshell clam seed (grows the seed larger with an upweller to increase survival rate when they’re planted). This allows the LPA to be in the name of the committee as opposed to a member (liability reasons). Legislature made the change; this is an update of rules. The other part cleans up specific language relating to LPA laws and rules. It’s all current practice – not much change. The one change is that people must submit a tax map when they apply for an LPA (as they do for leases). All landowners within 300 feet must be notified of proposed LPAs. Currently we rely on the applicants to tell us who they are, but we would like to be able to double check. Currently, applicants have to go to the town office to have them sign off on names and numbers of people anyway, so it will involve only one extra step: getting a tax map.
Jim: Would this apply only to new applicants?
Samantha: Yes, this would not apply to existing LPAs, only new applicants.
Tim: Can it be used for scallops?
Sam: No, just certain species of clams, oysters and mussels.
Dana made a motion to approve, Rod seconded: unanimous approval.
Dana welcomed Jim Wadsworth to the council. Jim thanked for the opportunity to serve, said he looks forward to it.
Chapter 21: Shellfish Relay:
Amy Fitzpatrick Public Health Division Director explained these are changes to existing organization of rules and definition changes that are needed to be in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. Relay rules were in several chapters before, we had an FDA Audit last year and were found not in compliance, we updated chapter 21 to reflect the model ordinance and some other definition language, developed a detailed relay application that helps us help industry to flesh out what they want to do so we can identify what needs to occur. We had informational hearings with every permit holder that held a relay permit, worked out issues, answered questions and clarified prior to public hearing, had three hearings, answered all questions.
Tim made a motion to approve, Al seconded, unanimous approval.
Chapter 2.90 and 05 Water quality classification and shellfish aquaculture:
Amy Fitzpatrick explained that this change is an update to comply with the National Shellfish Sanitation Ordinance. We added water quality definitions and updated language. We worked with industry and the Maine Aquaculture Association closely throughout the process.
Jim: How does not being in compliance affect industry?
Amy: Eventually, people wouldn’t be able to sell product out of state if we were not in compliance.
Rod made a motion to accept, Vincent seconded, unanimously approved.
Recreational Summer Flounder Limits: Togue Brawn.
Summer Flounder is managed by ASMFC and the Mid Atlantic Council. Recreational Limits have been exceeded recently, prompting NMFS to write a stern letter to both agencies urging them to take steps to ensure the 2008 recreational limit is not exceeded. As a result, ASMFC reduced bag limit to 2 (from 4), increased minimum size to 20 inches (from 17) and instituted a closed season from September 2 through July 3. Maine has the option of coming up with their own conservation equivalency, but since we don’t have much of a fishery, we didn’t think it worthwhile. We will be required to adopt these measures if we don’t do it voluntarily.
Rod made a motion to accept, Al seconded.
Glen: This is different from the commercial size, correct?
George clarified that yes, this is for recreational only.
Vote occurred, unanimously approved.
Atlantic Halibut size and limit:
Kohl Kanwit reported: In rewriting the regulations passed in August of last year, an oversight occurred: an exemption to allow halibut coming from aquaculture operations being brought into Maine was omitted. This was unintended, and this rule change clarifies there will be an exemption, stating that fish coming from aquaculture should be exempted from the size limit (it’s not economically possible to grow a halibut to 38 inches in aquaculture).
George: We talked to Marine Patrol, the paper trail works OK for them.
Glen: I have questions about tagging. Is the minimum size still 36” if I catch the fish in federal waters? And do I have to tag them?
Response: To be landed in ME, halibut must be 38”, even if they’re caught in federal waters. Persons must tag all halibut even if caught in federal waters.
Al moved to accept, Dana seconded, approved unanimously.
Chapter 90.20 Taunton Bay Management Area:
John Sowles gave an overview of this project. It’s been going on for about 5 years, and will bring us into a new age concerning the way we manage fisheries. It takes an ecosystem and community level approach. A year ago, the legislature endorsed setting Taunton Bay aside under special regulations so we won’t have to go to legislature to make changes. We formed an advisory group in the area of fishermen, recreationalists, property owners, etc. to advise us on how to manage the bay. There was a moratorium on dragging put in place in 2000. That moratorium expires on July 1 in 2008. The Advisory Group wanted to have some rules in place to prevent a lapse of rules. Advisory Group recommended we look at the Bay comprehensively, and they identified scallops, urchins, kelp and mussels as species to be managed intensively. The rule says if you’re interested in fishing for one of those species, you must notify the department, and the Advisory Group will get together as a group to distribute the allocation. Then we have a meeting, all fishermen get together, we work out where the conflicts are, we figure out how to solve the conflict to get the product out of the bay. This rule ensures the fishermen will have an opportunity to participate in the process. Department doesn’t just decide – fishermen take part, they work it out. On the science side, we need to be able to monitor if things are working. Trip-level reporting is mandated. This is a very labor-intensive initiative, difficult to support it as well, and we need good data.
Jim W: I’m in favor of an integrative approach, but a local management plan should be local, you’re leaving the door open for any harvester in the state to fish these species.
John: Yes, it’s a concern, but our thought process was that for scallops and urchins, the resource is limited. We’ve identified every traditional harvester that has used it. The bar we’re setting in terms of reporting and meeting attendance will discourage a mad dash of people into the bay. We’re willing to try it for the first year. And we could change the rules quickly. We’ll have three cycles. In 2010, the whole thing comes to an end, we have to come before you to see if it’s worked and have it continued.
Susan: The moratorium on dragging will sunset when?
Answer: July 1.
Susan: Is it your sense that you have good data prior to the moratorium being lifted concerning which areas are more vulnerable, etc.?
John: In the larger plan, we’ve identified the non-harvestable resources, shorebird areas, seagrass beds, etc. We’ve mapped these areas well. We’ve said, to continue the moratorium (ban) or to open it up like the rest of the coast aren’t good options. We want to try this to see how it works.
Susan: What’s your sense of the timeframe? Is it too long or too short?
John: It’s short, but 2.5 years is a good test. I think we’ll learn a lot this first season.
Susan: Please describe the time limit issue.
John: I’ve personally spent about a quarter of my time on this project. It’s a lot of process. We have some coastal program money to hire facilitators to help resource harvesters work through separate meetings. Our hope is they’ll be able to proceed on their own by the third year.
Tim: How about enforcement?
John: Lt. Talbot says given the limited number of people who have fished this area, this will be manageable. We’ll know the boats beforehand.
Al: Question to George: Is this the only program that will be allowed short term because of the amount of resources it requires to administer?
George: At this point, yes, management of this kind requires a lot of work. We need to see if this one works before we expand it. I want to give credit to John and others for putting a lot of time into it. It’s worth trying to see if it works. With the sunset I suspect we’ll know in a year and a half if it has merit. Also, important in context of public resources, we’re talking about localized management, not local control. We’re not talking about local areas owning local bays and controlling everything - that’s not our intention. In the long term, if this is a grand success, one of my concerns is we can’t rely on the coastal program and grant funds and Sherm Hoyt to run this long term. We need to be honest about how it will work. That’s a big time commitment on behalf of local folks and DMR. This is a good way to get information about local management.
Rod: Why did they leave the lobstermen out?
John: We wanted to bite off something that was manageable. We also left out worms and clams.
George: Also, lobsters move so much, localized management doesn’t make as much sense.
John: However we will be looking at potential conflicts between lobstermen and clammers.
Dana: How long has this been going on?
John: This whole process has been going on for four years.
Dana: Have others (from other fisheries) wanted to give advice?
John: We have a wormer and a lobsterman on the advisory panel.
Discussion ensued of the difficulties of involving many different groups.
Jim W: Why was Taunton Bay’s selection as the pilot area? Why didn’t you choose a Cobscook or a Penobscot or a Casco Bay?
John: Taunton Bay is a small manageable bay with a limited constituency, local support, interest and dedication. It was the right size project. If you throw too much money at something, people come out of the woodwork, directions change.
Susan: What’s your guesstimate in terms of timing with meetings, plan development, etc.?
John: I’ve been trying to tell people not to expect firm rules by July 1. It can’t happen in fact by July 1, but we’re going to try to get the resource assessments done in June, we hope to open things up in early July (will need to supply info to inform meetings).
Dana: What happens if they can’t decide how to allocate the resource collectively?
John: We don’t know except to say we’re willing to try. If they can’t come to agreement, nobody can fish. If a spoiler wants to muck up the works, that could happen.
George: If someone makes it completely unworkable, we have the means take care of it.
John: George has an escape valve.
Rod made a motion to accept, Susan seconded, it was approved unanimously.
George: Let’s have John give us a report on how things are going at the end of the year.
George: The biggest thing going on at the ASMFC right now is continued work on the river herring management plan. We had some public meetings; some people thought we were promoting a moratorium on river herring which we’re not. Our river herring is doing better than other states. Likely, if you can demonstrate your resource is doing OK, we’ll be OK, other states can close their fisheries if they decide to do so.
There’s also been discussion about a transferable trap tag system and how to monitor that. We’ve kept Area 1 out of that.
Council Issues: Herring: we’re beginning work on Amendment 4. Everyone agrees on the need for better data in the herring fishery. We don’t have a lot of information to answer Pew reports, etc. We need info on bycatch of river herring and shad. When foreign vessels fished, we required they have observers to monitor bycatch. Observer coverage is a big part of the Amendment. The other part is that some people want to ban midwater trawling, while other people want to do away with purse seiners. We could have soup to nuts in there. But if we add too much to it, it’ll take forever.
Another issue: there are joint plans in the Mid Atlantic – it’s problematic. With herring, we did parallel plans, we had state waters stuff, they took care of federal stuff. With the Federal plan, [they] have reduced the state ability to manage their own resource. Feds say states can only agree to what the feds want. We advocated for joint meetings, the Council has said no. I’ve asked for a meeting with Vince O’Shea to have a meeting about working together.
Dana: You should all be aware there’s a scoping meeting at 9:00 tomorrow prior to the committee meeting. There will be another. As many people as possible should comment.
George: Some people want to go to an ITQ based fishery, but if we do so we might wind up like Pollock on west coast.
George: The Council is meeting on June 3-5 in Portland. I won’t be there, as they changed the date of the meeting and I have a conflict. Groundfish is in deep trouble. Timing of the assessment – council will be forced to put management together before we have the GARM (assessment). On white hake, they’re projecting we need to reduce fishing mortality by 70%. Few options – one is to close most of Georges and about 30% of Gulf of Maine. What about those who are in this area that can’t go somewhere else, and what about those who can go somewhere else? Open areas will suffer.
Other option: DAS reductions and closed areas. All options negatively impact someone. One option is 70% reduction in DAS. Reduction in hake may be less than that based on better information. Our senators have requested a delay in finishing Amendment 16 so we have the assessment before making the management decisions. People will say we’re trying to dodge the bullet.
When we get Amendment 16 done, if we’re looking at huge closed areas or DAS cuts, we have to say “Is it worth it anymore?” I’m not sure amendment process can handle the situation we’re in now. A discussion ensued concerning the dismal state of groundfishing in Maine and New England.
Dana: The Council needs to devote all its resources to Groundfish.
Glen: People aren’t taking area needs into account. You can’t buy off one area to save another. The single stock strategy is tough. You should be managing the big picture. When you have to shut down everything because of one species, the strategy gets you.
George: Laurice wants to know if we need a June meeting. She recommends no. In July, we may have a sea urchin season to vote on, maybe whale rules, maybe something about groundfish in July. Also, in this legislative session, the issue of clamflats and our water quality program was a huge issue. We’re now setting the shellfish management council. The Chair of that council will sit on this council. It will take some time to get it to work well. DMR is hiring a facilitator to help with the first two meetings.
It was decided to wait until July for the next meeting.
Jim W: What’s up with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for lobster certification – where do things stand?
George: The governor put together a working group to look at that. I sit on it, John Hathaway, Linda Bean, Nick Lemieux, Elliott Thomas, and a couple others. We’ve contracted for pre-assessment, which will be done in June or July. We’ll then bring it back to the Lobster Advisory Council before it moves forward.
As far as the unit of assessment – they were talking about examining the entire Gulf of Maine. But we want them to look at Area 1, so Maine fishermen can have a competitive advantage.
There was some discussion of the Natural Resource Agency Taskforce – George sits on it. He commented that their job is to look at the issue. They’ll meet 6 times, make recommendations in November. You can’t have a preconceived notion of what you can save money wise, etc.
Dana: Everyone needs to pay a lot of attention to the stewardship/eco labeling thing. I find this scary.
George: We’ll need to look at the pre-assessment when it comes out. I’m advocating putting it out and letting people see it.
Glen: People have talked about the amount of bait used to produce a pound of lobster. The Monhegan experiment worked well – let the traps set, use fewer traps.
Dana: Why can’t we come up with our own Council – what if some radical person sits on the MSC –what if we’re dictated to by someone in London?
A brief discussion ensued.
Motion to Adjourn was offered by Dana; seconded by Rod.