DMR Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
September 17, 2008
A meeting of the Department of Marine Resources’ (DMR) Advisory Council (AC) was held on this date at the Natural Resource Service Center, 6 Beech Street, Hallowell. AC members attending this meeting included Dana Rice – Chair, David Pecci – Vice Chair, Al West - Secretary, Glenn Libby, Dana Temple, Fiona DeKoning, Bob Baines and Tim Harper. Council members Vincent Balzano, Rod Mitchell, Timothy Kief, Scott Tilton and George Harris, Jr., and Jim Wadsworth were unable to attend. Department staff included Commissioner George Lapointe, Colonel Joe Fessenden, Heidi Bray, Rob Watts, Bruce Chamberlain, Togue Brawn, Sarah Cotnoir, Terry Stockwell, Samantha Horn Olsen and L. Churchill. Other attendees included Gina LeDuc-Kuntz, Freeport, Adrian Laliberte, Gary Hatch, and Paul Farmer.
The Chair called the meeting to order at 1:05pm.
The Chair noted the directive by the Attorney General’s Office that no comments are allowed from the public when members are voting on rulemaking as the comment period has closed.
2. Approval of minutes (see handout)
Motion: (A. West, D. Temple) Motion to approve the minutes of the meeting held May 21, 2008. Discussion: None
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve (Dana Rice, David Pecci, Al West, Glenn Libby, Dana Temple, Fiona DeKoning, Bob Baines and Tim Harper)
3. Regulations - Action (voting) (see handouts)
Chapter 25.93(F)(1)(b)(iv) Exit Ratios for Limited Entry Zones – Zone G (5:1, based on trap tags)
Chapter 25.93(F)(1)(b)(iii) Exit Ratios for Limited Entry Zones – Zone F (5:1, based on trap tags)
S. Cotnoir briefed the members on these similar proposals.
Motion: (B. Baines, A. West) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 25.93(F)(1)(b)(iv) for Zone G.
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
Motion: (B. Baines, D. Temple) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 25.93(F)(1)(b)(iv) for Zone F. Discussion: None
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
Chapter 45.15 Shrimp traps (marking requirement)
S. Cotnoir briefed the members on the rulemaking.
Motion: (A. West, G. Libby) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 45.15.
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
Chapter 8.20(O) Landings Program, Harvester Reporting, Scallop Harvest
T. Brawn briefed the members on the rulemaking.
Motion: (D. Temple, T. Harper) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 8.20(O).
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
Chapter 11.02 & 11.10(B) Technical changes
L. Churchill briefed the members on the rulemaking.
Motion: (A. West, D. Pecci) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 11.02 & 11.10(B).
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
Chapter 15.37 Buying Station; and Chapter 15.03(B)(2) Regulated Activity
B. Chamberlain briefed the members on the rulemaking.
Comm. Lapointe explained that in the legislative process of the truck law bill last winter in the end the Department committed to move this forward by rulemaking. When the legislature said they wanted this done they said put in the restrictions you need to make it work. A number of the comments are that it is stricter than it used to be and that is true because we’re trying to allow the activity that Marine Patrol can enforce it and that public health inspectors can maintain public health requirements as well.
B. Baines: This seems more restrictive and cumbersome. I’m not clear if it be so restrictive that they won’t Do this. Is it that complicated?
B. Chamberlain: That is a possibility. As a businessman you have to make those decisions everyday as to whether or not doing something is worthwhile and this is no different.
Comm. Lapointe: The temperature issue, you will see comments in there that we don’t have to maintain temperature while bringing the clams to the buying station therefore why do these guys have to maintain the temperature. The reason is they are a buying station. They are a dealer. So it is taking a land based dealer and putting many of those same restrictions on truck based dealer because that is what the law requires us to do.
B. Chamberlain: Basically the truck is an extension of the land based operation and therefore you have to meet those requirements.
Comm. Lapointe: Many people in the clam industry think they will get a better price because they think that one buyer will go down to where you’re harvesting and undercut or out-compete another. We don’t know that this point. So this sets up an avenue for that process to be tested.
B. Chamberlin: I don’t believe we can make regulations based on just economics, right?
Comm. Lapointe: Correct but it allows the activity to occur. One of the concerns I voiced in the legislative process was we’ve got 54 Marine Patrol Officers and if they are stretched too thin by going to any place people might harvest and buy clams. We will have to work our way into this. Again, what we’ve tried to do is set up a system that will allow the activity to occur and see how it would work. But in a way that was enforceable from a Marine Patrol perspective and maintain the standards in the public health program.
D. Rice: Initially the legislative level of concern was from a public health point of view wasn’t it?
Comm. Lapointe: That was ours certainly.
Tim Harper: Is this a big problem? This seems to place a burden of people in business for something that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Comm. Lapointe: On the question of whether the public health process works or not, our answer would be yes. There is always a tension between putting enough conditions in place so that people don’t get sick and allowing it to occur. I will tell you two summers ago in Portland some people bought clams off the back of a truck and one person died. So is public health worth working on? Yes. It is a real tension. This is our best effort at trying to move forward and they worked with a lot of folks. Is it going to be perfect, I suspect not and so we will have to see how it will work. A lot of people will call for changes; we may call for changes if it doesn’t work.
Al West: Question on section 9, All shellstock purchased at a permitted buying station must be placed in approved truck and truck must be sealed immediately. I’m assuming that means immediately after the purchasing is done for the day. Should that be clarified? It says the truck must return to the place of business at the end of purchasing.
B. Chamberlain: In my way of thinking we just assumed it would be at the end of the purchasing activity as the end of the tide when it is the last…
Al West: I’ve been on the end assume before!
B. Chamberlain: I understand but the intention is that it be sealed with the last bushel placed in the truck then they drive it away.
L. Churchill: I could add that this is similar language to what is already used for depuration trucks and is also the same language as what you may have for lobster seals, etc. Since the other types of sealing mechanisms used are written similarly if there was a need to upgrade this one then we’d have to upgrade all the others too.
Comm. Lapointe: Joe, and that’s the understanding Marine Patrol has as well, right?
Col. Fessenden: Right. I think we could make minor technical change.
Comm. Lapointe: Wouldn’t it be they’d have to be sealed prior to leaving the place of purchase?
Col. Fessenden: The landing, and right we have depuration harvesting laws that allow digging in closed areas and taking shellfish back to a depuration facility to be purged and we require trucks to be sealed and brought back and we designed this system under that guide more or less. It’s very restrictive and we used good discretion. Al has a good point. I wouldn’t mind seeing it clarified if possible. But we will teach the officers when we go over this regulation that that is the intent certainly. There would be no expectation to seal the truck every time they bought a few bushels of clams.
Comm. Lapointe: My sense is rather than trying to hammer out the language, if we can work with Mark and he considers it a minor change we can do that and the intent would be that is has to be sealed at the conclusion of buying or when leaving the location of buying.
D. Rice: Prior to transportation.
Comm. Lapointe: To the other point if in fact that is a good clarification we might come back with another minor technical change to the other rules to make those consistent as well.
L. Churchill: If you read further in that same paragraph they have to write the time down that the shellstock were placed in the truck. Obviously it they are at the landing they are not there for just one purchase. So if they are there for more than one purchase and they have to write those times down anyway, they have a log of what is going in to the truck, then it wouldn’t make sense to have a seal for every individual purchase. I think the intent and where Patrol has handled this before I don’t think we need to change.
Comm. Lapointe: Approve as is and come back to talk about all the other regulations where it might be applicable.
D. Rice: Another other questions? If not is there a motion?
Motion: (A. West, D. Temple) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 15.37 and 15.03(B)(2) with the option for legal opinion to clarify section 9.
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
Chapter 34.10(1)(B)(4)(c)(i)(b) Whiting/silver hake (Merluccius bilinearis) Commercial Effort Restrictions, Season, Exemption
T. Brawn briefed the members on the rulemaking.
Motion: (A. West, D. Pecci) Motion to approve the rulemaking in Chapter 34.10(1)(B)(4)(c)(i)(b).
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
4. Other Business
Paul Farmer – Special license (SL) for scallop spat collection for aquaculture and policy discussion
Samantha Horn Olsen presented the request for special license that was granted during the summer that expires today and being brought back to the council for consideration. The over all situation is we’ve had increasing interest in the last couple of years about culture of scallops on aquaculture leases. There are some limitations currently on peoples ability to do that. One is you can grow scallops on leases but not on the limited-purpose license. Another limitation is there is no hatchery source for scallop seed or juvenile scallops. Unlike oysters where you can buy 100,000 baby oysters and grow them on your lease you have to get them from somewhere. For enhancement projects folks have gathered them with spat collectors from the wild. Until now we haven’t authorized anyone to take spat and put it on a lease. We’ve been encouraging and working with people over the last few years, such as Dana Morse, because it looks like a really promising avenue to experiment with and see if it will work. We don’t know yet whether scallops will be a big culture industry in Maine or not but we think it is worth trying.
Paul Farmer applied for a special license to collect spat to grow out on his lease on a trial basis. He is working with Dana Morse. Paul is here today and he can explain more about what his project is. From the policy point of view I want to explain that we’re taking steps to see how it works out, see what some of the pitfalls might be, and see what is possible economically. We’re not pushing right now or not considering a regular license for spat collection in the wild this is a special license, because we want to try is and see how things work. Then reassess as we go. That is where we are right now. Do you have any policy questions?
F. DeKoning: Regarding the sale of any seed collected; can you tell me why that section is being included in this SL?
S. Horn Olsen: The reason it is in the SL is because we had some interest in the past about collecting spat to sell to other people for them to grow out. We want to approach this cautiously. We want to take this step-wise and see how it goes. We’re concerned that if we start with people collecting spat to then sell to other people who we’re not sure who those people would be and we’re just concerned about getting ahead of ourselves before we really know what scallop aquaculture would or should look like in Maine so we can put appropriate policies and safeguards in place. So it is not because we don’t think that there could never be sale of spat but we want to know if scallop culture is going to work and then approach it cautiously and if there is eventually sale of spat we would want to make sure we put whatever safeguards are appropriate around that.
F. DeKoning: So this is part of the resource management working your way through to see how it would work. It is not the intention to ban that if it takes off and is successful?
S. Horn Olsen: We don’t have a predisposition one way or the other about spat sales over time. It is something we don’t know enough about yet.
Comm. Lapointe: If you move back a number of years this Advisory Council, 5-7 years ago people were putting out spat bags everywhere. The idea was could you collect spat from the wild because although our scallop harvestable resource is in low condition a lot of areas get a bucket load of spat still. So it is not a function of producing spat it is a function of how you get them from spat size to bigger. People at the time including this commissioner said if you do this a lot are you going to take away the spat from a local area and cause some depletion or are you going to move the spat in Dave’s area to my area. People said let’s have a lot of caution about this. So at the time people said let’s not do it. We also had a SL where a guy down Frenchmen’s Bay way, a guy got a SL to get a bunch of dinner plate scallops because he was going to try a hatchery and I never heard from him again. So I assume it didn’t work. So it really hasn’t come up. The sale condition is just for this license so in fact it allows Paul to do intelligent tinkering to see if it can work.
F. DeKoning: So before decision would be made to ban seed collection if this industry took off and it was really successful and a lot of people were involved then scientific data would be collected so that we weren’t getting just anecdotal information being brought in or the perception that the resource is being depleted by collecting larval because there was a lot of research done in other places that haven’t shown that you get a reduction of resource.
Comm. Lapointe: I can’t guarantee we’re going to do scientific research because when you get our budget discussion in a couple of months it will be pretty grim. What I can tell you is if we make a change in policy we will discuss it and base it on the best information we have.
S. Horn Olsen: One of the interesting things over the past couple of years especially the last 6 months or so is how many scallop fishermen have called me asking about scallop aquaculture. So it is starting to grow past the core aquaculture community and there is a lot of interest in it broadly. This is another reason why we are interested in exploring it further.
Comm. Lapointe: My first year here there was a trade mission or a scientific mission, fishermen, scientists, DMR staff, and they wert to Aomori province in Japan. One particular bay, they do a lot of thing differently, they divide the bay up and you get this part and you get this part and collectives get it and they’ve got a very authoritarian government structure so when the commissioner says something they all say yes or…but they have been incredibly successful in scallop culture. So the interest is still there. I may see if we some of those old reports just to give people to show what is done elsewhere.
Paul Farmer introduced himself. He holds an aquaculture lease and is a scallop diver interested in getting a SL to collect scallop seed for the purpose of commercial aquaculture. Mr. Farmer answered questions from the members.
He got his collectors ready over the summer and recently deployed them September 1st, so he has just started; success is unknown at this point. He’s collected mussel seed and has a mussel raft to grow mussels and collected mussel seed on site. That is his prior seed collection experience. Scallops will be different with a learning curve to it just like collecting mussel seed. He is working with Dana Morse (Sea Grant agent). Don’t know what this year will bring but in future years he hopes to have more time to devote to preparing the collectors and be more established in some of the seed collection areas. He is positive it could work. “We have a decent amount of area where we live and there is some good scallop bottom and have been told that a lot of the lobstermen see a lot of scallop seed on their traps, by coming up covered in it. The Herring Gut Learning Center has done a little bit with it and they’ve had some success. I’m pretty confident that I ought to be able to catch a few.”
D. Rice: In the license it says where, and the grow out sites two lease, so forth, held by Paul Farmer and held by Barrett Lynde pending species amendment. I assume that means you need [something else].
L. Churchill: On their leases they list the species they’re allowed to raise and on Barrett’s lease at the time he applied that the SL was written Barrett had only just submitted his species amendment for his lease, which is the second one named on here. Sam, status?
S. Horn Olsen: Diantha has just reviewed it and don’t believe there will be any problems with it; unsure if it has been finalized.
L. Churchill: So he just cannot place any scallops on the second lease until that paperwork is done.
D. Rice: To include scallops? LC: Correct.
Comm. Lapointe: This is a procedural change in house.
T. Stockwell: What size you’re talking about for seed? What is the difference between spat and seed?
Paul Farmer: By the spring the scallop seed sets into the bag material, let’s say now middle of September the first of October and then by April I’d plan on transferring any seed I catch to my aquaculture lease and hopefully by then they’d be about thumb nail size. I think that’s fairly standard for the little bit of seed I’ve seen around.
Comm. Lapointe: They would still be attached to the bag, right?
Paul Farmer: Yes. They will have the bissell thread and will hold on to the bag for awhile then eventually release. At that point they will be in such a small mesh bag that they will basically be caught at that point.
D. Temple: Do you have any long term plans for the grow out area? Do you plan on putting up any kind of predator barriers, any kind of maintenance schedule for, you’re a diver you can dive on them everyday if you needed to?
P. Farmer: Ideally it would be loose plantings on the bottom. That would be the best situation. Minimal or no gear what so ever. I’m not 100% sure how feasible that is. I know with oysters and other things it may sound good but it may not work out exactly the way you plan. So I’m going to start with gear and bottom cages as well as lantern nets hung off my mussel raft. The only thing I worry about the lantern nets is fouling. I’ve been told that in other countries they are more popular and they will foul. But I’m going to try flat bottom cages and see how it works. My site has a lot of tide and really clean water and moves a big volume of water over that area and just in the channel from where the lease is there is there is a formerly really productive wild scallop bed. The meats grow really well there. So this is basically, that’s down in 45-60 feet of water in the channel, my lease is up on the shelf in the hard sand and eel grass in 30 feet of water. As you get closer to shore it gets shallower. Basically we’d be growing them in 25-30 feet of water. It should be a good area. I am worried about them moving. I’ve been told they will move. So I’m thinking gear to start.
D. Temple: There is a lot of information out there on different things that have been done, different styles of bottom protection devices. Whether it be just a barrier around the outside of 100 square meters or cages or lantern nets, there’s a million different things you could try. I suggest you pick half a dozen or maybe 3 or 4 of these things and looks like you’ve picked a few already. But you might want to find something that is middle of the road. Obviously the best way to do this is to find the most cost effective and effective way to do this thing so that you’re not spending a lot of time and energy. It could be a boost to the industry if you can figure out what that is. Don’t right off things like just a net system 3 feet high that runs around a small [area]; you don’t have to make it huge but you could compare the results you get out of that to some of the other type of bottom cages. Cages are fine but you have to open them and close them, get inside and dig the predators out and all that other stuff. So you have a bunch of issues there. That might be more of a pain in the neck than you want to deal with as opposed to an open bottom system that simply has a 3 foot high net.
P. Farmer: That would be the idea situation definitely. Some of the diving for scallops, a lot of the places we’ve done the best were little pieces of bottom not much bigger than this room and they’ll just be so thick and there will be little ones in there too. You go through and pick off the big ones off the top and leave the smaller ones and you go back there and they can grow and flourish in a tight environment. In a lot of those places weren’t where drags had hauled back to my knowledge. Assessing the bed itself that was just a natural set that no one had fished on for a while; but there are some of these areas like that; that just kind of proves that they can be in high densities and right next to smaller ones and since they are not like a mussel that is bissing up form a mat as they move to find the best location for feeding.
G. Libby: Do you know exactly where you’re going to put the collectors?
P. Farmer: Yes, I’ve got them on either side of the Kegs right now pretty much mixed in with the lobster gear. There is still a good amount of gear through there. But there is enough room for them, I’m pretty confident in talking with a few of the guys that fish through there and just assessing the amount of pot buoys out there. They are basically in the deeper water on either side of the Kegs.
G. Libby: Will these be in there on the Kegs during scallop season?
P. Farmer: One thing, I could move them out of the way but right now they are not in the tow or the traditional tow area that I know if in there. I would be more than willing to [move them]. I know Jimmy Wotton who had collected a few in there. He moves his to the inside of Otter Island over the mud for the winter and my collectors are over real soft bottom. I’d be surprised if anyone would tow through there. I haven’t seen anyone in there but I could be wrong.
G. Libby: I just don’t want to have any gear conflict if it just gets approved. I think it would be helpful if we could get together in Port Clyde and talk it over as I could show you where people tow in all the ears you have outlined.
P. Farmer: Yes; lets do that. But I really think there is enough area in Muscongus Bay to be able to collect over the mud where no one is going to be towing and where they are not towing shrimp either; inside enough; and on soft enough bottom so you are not in the scallops.
Comm. Lapointe: Glen’s comment is a good one that when we deal with those kind of issues up front it is a lot easier than dealing with them on the back end after somebody’s ticked off.
G. Libby: And it is easier to deal with them before anyone goes fishing. Then you’re not; what’s that guy’s cell phone number and then you don’t answer, and you’re sitting there waiting to put your drag overboard. Let’s get this organized before.
P. Farmer: Yes and I figure to that say this year goes ok and people get used to them and they see them out there, they are not in their way, they are not a big deal so then next year they will know that they are there and hopefully if it goes well over the next 4-5 years it will just be common knowledge that that is soft bottom is where they’re collecting scallop seed. Maybe if that works maybe if there was room there maybe in the future other guys may want to collect scallop seed to, maybe they would have collectors there too.
G. Libby: There’s plenty of bottom around that doesn’t get fished.
Motion: (F. DeKoning, D. Temple) Motion to approve the special license requested by Paul Farmer.
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve
P. Farmer: I’ll give Glen a call tonight…Glen: I’ll get in touch with you…
Taunton Bay Management Plan – update. Tabled till next meeting.
ASMFC & NEFMC Updates
Comm. Lapointe: The commission has a number of hearings scheduled; a coastal shark plan, dogfish hearing coming up, one to be held in Boothbay. We will have 3 river herring public hearings after the ASMFC meeting, which is in the middle of October. So in November/December we will have public hearing on river herring, plan amendment. Of interest for Maine this is where folks in other states talk about coast wide moratorium on river herring harvests, which we don’t believe we need. So when that time comes around it will be important for people to pay attention to that issue. A lot of states have their river herring populations in the toilet but ours isn’t great but not really terrible shape. So our stance has been and remains to keep that open but doing some extra monitoring. Pat Keliher and the sea run fisheries staff are talking about how to tighten up some of the town plans so they do a better job of allowing escapement and monitoring.
We’re waiting on the stock assessment for lobster through the commission process and like many stock assessments that is coming late so we will report on that in February or March.
G. Libby: Shrimp survey?
Comm. Lapointe: I don’t know the results of the survey, good question. I sent a note to Brad Spear and Maggie just about the timing of the process through this fall. The survey has been done; I don’t know the result other than it is not that bad. We expected it to dip down and I think the news is as good as we can expect at this point. The technical committee will meet in the first week of October; the advisory panel soon after. I think November 9 or 10 for the annual shrimp meeting. We will have two new advisors; Terry Alexander who is the chair of the advisory panel said can we have some new people because we’ve had some who haven’t been paying attention. One is Gary Libby who will be an advisory; all 3 Maine commissioners have signed off on him and Vincent Balzano as well. So we should have good participation. [ASMFC = Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission; a compact of all 15 Atlantic Coast States that manage inter jurisdictional fisheries cooperatively; Comm. Lapointe is the chair at this time. NEFMC = New England Fisheries Management Council, is one of 8 regional councils set up under the Magnuson Act. It involves the states from Connecticut to the north who get together for management of resources in federal water.]
T. Stockwell: The eel hearings start September 25th in Hallowell and September 29th and Ellsworth. Herring: The state has a bait shortage right now; essential the entire northeast has a bait shortage. The quota has been dropped to 45,000mt in the 3 year package for this year, next year and likely the following year. This boils down to 40, 900mt available to the industry because of the research set aside and the state waters landings that are deducted from the overall quota. Through the ASMFC process we have a day’s out of the fishery. We started out with 3 days out of the week. The rate of catch was so high because they were landing on fishing days that the fleet had caught by the end of August what we projected they would catch by the first of October. So we met roughly 3 weeks ago and determined that there are essentially 2000mt of fish that could be taken out of Area 1A in the month of September and we voted on four landing days. The first week they took 27,000mt; had them take a week off then this week we don’t know. When hurricane Ike came through and certainly impacted one nights of fishing but we’re projecting somewhere around 1,000mt maybe more that had been landed. We won’t know the final tally until next Tuesday because the fleet has a week to report. Although some of the IVR reports are returned but not all. The long and short of it is there is just not enough fresh bait available to the industry right now. We’ve been besieged by calls by lobstermen who are just trying to catch a few lobsters and rely on the bait. There is some frozen fish available; prices are high and it has to be trucked from either New Bedford or Gloucester. Next Wednesday when we meet I will be arguing to get an additional day in the end of September and to space out the landings as far into the fall as we can. When you combine the combined fishing power of the seiners and the mid water boats who start fishing again the first of October it is over 2000mt a night. So the quota will go quick. We’ve talked about whether to have two landing days a week; there’s a pile of other smaller boats that need an opportunity and the industry certainly needs the bait but my biggest fear is not to try to stretch is out so far that the fish swim away out of Area 1A and we can’t take what small amount of quota we’ve been allocated. This hasn’t been much fun for anybody.
A. West: Comments for our two representatives, all indications are from where I fit in from the fishermen is that the herring resource in Area 1A doesn’t deserve to be at 45,000mt quota. What can we do to try start lobbying NMFS because I don’t’ believe they have good biological justification. The numbers are 2 years old now. Last year they caught plenty. This year the seiners never even had to move. They left the same port every night, went to the same fishing grounds and came back every night and were catching 2,000mt a night. It is ludicrous; there is no shortage of herring and the boats came Downeast because of the spawning closure in western Maine and the one night they could fish they brought in close to 1,000mt without even to have the opportunity to look around for fish. I think the problem is we’re being regulated too hard. I think partly is being driven by the environmentalists saying we need to protect the whales, seals, and everything else and the scientists are so far behind on the numbers that if they don’t redo the numbers till next year it will be two more years after that before they do anything about the quota. Something needs to be done.
T. Stockwell: The politics are intense and the council sets their specification package in three year amounts. If you remember what we voted on was 60,000mt and wanted to maintain that quota. Because of the way the day went we had enough for 50,000mt.
A. West: You and I both realize herring can be born, live, die and spawn in four years.
T. Stockwell: And because of the retrospective pattern in the model the agency changed their specs when they implemented two years at 45,000mt. We won’t have the track and the stock assessment till next year, which is at the same time that we need to set the next three year spec package. So the projection is to do a one year spec and with out the new data we’ll be looking at the old data that says probably 45,000mt is too much.
A. West: I know what you’re saying I’ve been through this argument 25 times with 20 different people. But the economic impact on the State of Maine this year is pretty evident from both my perspective and the lobster perspective. I just think there is something the state can do to pound on someone whether you have to go to the Senators that control what NMFS does or whatever. It is ridiculous.
Comm. Lapointe: Importantly, the big change in the Magnuson Act, which impacts herring is Senators can pound on us, we can pound on the Senators, the total allowable catch is going to be set by the science and statistics committee (SSC). They are going to set an ABC action, an acceptable biological catch, above which you cannot go. So they can do all the pounding they want but without a change in federal law; we’re living this in groundfish big time. You’re question is a good one. Something we can work on next year is trying to work with our other states on doing a better job of days out and fishing days out and what we can do about that creatively. We had a gentleman’s agreement for people not to fish except during the days in the fishery and that agreement lasted how long? [No one night.] I think we can discuss the tough ways we might be able to do a better job if there are two days in the fishery to make it two days of fishing and landing not 4 days of fishing and two days of landing. It will still be at the 40,900mt but it will be mitted out over the season in a better way.
B. Baines: It not that we try to, we have next year. In the lobster industry it is crisis. We’ve got a day’s worth of bait in Sprucehead. Two weeks left in the month, we might get another day. Then come the first of October they’re going to catch it all up in a week. Half of it is probably going to go to Massachusetts. They are putting the screws to us and laughing all the way. If we’re going to buy that bait back from them frozen we’ll see. But we know what didn’t work this year. We know why it didn’t work. I don’t see any solutions to it. Maybe the pogies will show up more. But we cannot have this again next year.
Comm. Lapointe: I agree with that. One of the things Terry and I talked about was we can’t prevent people form fishing in federal waters. So we’ll work on landings. We can for Maine fishermen, like we do with lobsters, say you have to abide by your license restrictions. So for Maine fishermen we could get an emergency law that says days out of the fishery means days of the fishery and you can’t, if you’re a Maine license holder, the days in are fishing and landing days. But, unless the other states do that [it’s no good].
B. Baines: Otherwise they will ship them south.
Comm. Lapointe: So that is the tough discussion to have. My thought for folks in the lobster industry is to talk to your compadre’s in the other states and make sure that the other states hear about the concerns that you have because I know that made a difference at the last meeting. But the Mass. lobster association, and there must be a NH lobster association, get together and make sure their state agency is aware of their concerns about the need. With out that it won’t happen.
Gary Hatch: Like Al, one thing that really got me and it appears we didn’t act on was Dr. Pierce’s statement that Massachusetts needed to hold that 15,000mt for their mid water trawlers. I have a real problem with that and I don’t know why we didn’t at least voice our opinion on that because the fish just showed up for us state water fishermen two weeks ago and now we’re cut out because we don’t deserve any fish but the boats that have access to the fishery for 9 months all of a sudden we’ve got a whole allocation for them so they can have…
Comm. Lapointe: It is not an allocation for them. It is an allocation for October, November and December. This is always a delicate balance. We got an agreement that the fishery was closed in May and opened in June and to stretch the fish out over the course of the fall because bait for Maine fishermen, if we fished it all now, we’d be done by the first of October and we’d have no bait anyway. So it was an agreement to reserve fish for October, November and December. It wasn’t just for mid water trawlers.
G. Hatch: But that is who is going to catch it because when they open it October 1, number one, you will have the same ignorance going on Downeast where there is lobster gear, half the guys got put out of business by towing, and that is you’re responsibility. No. 2 the small fishing vessels from the state of Maine and the stop seiners, which is you’re responsibility, are getting cut out of the fishery so…
Comm. Lapointe: Some of those small seiners are the persons who didn’t honor the gentlemen’s agreement this year.
G. Hatch: Not Maine boats, not just Maine fishermen, you’re talking federal and I understand where you come from…
Comm. Lapointe: to Terry, were there Maine fishermen who did not honor the gentlemen’s agreement, in the fleet?
T. Stockwell: Yes.
Comm. Lapointe: Yes, we’ve got a job to do with our other states and they gave and they got some. And Joe and company are already talking about working with those fishermen, the herring fishermen and the lobstermen on the gear conflict issue because that is absolutely a legitimate issue. We collectively have to do better. But to blame it all on Massachusetts you can’t in this case because here a comment form one fishermen in Maine “!@#$-the gentleman’s agreement”. I’m just saying blame it all on everybody else. We certainly have to work with the other states but there were Maine people who used up, fished on the days off and used up that quota as much as Massachusetts boats.
G. Hatch: We all waited and watched them do it. You have an email from me stating that fact. What are we supposed to do? Just sit back some more and let them have the whole quota while we sit and try to be nice guys? There is a point where someone other than the fishermen have to regulate the fishery and I’m getting really upset; you know what the problem is, you’re the chair of Atlantic States, why aren’t we taking care of this? Emergency regulation, we’ve got to stop this before we destroy what we’ve done.
Comm. Lapointe: What would you do with an emergency regulation?
G. Hatch: That fishing nights only, not landing nights; twist them words so that we stop what was going on so we’d still have bait today, we’d still be if we was on going two nights a week, fine by me, because at least we’d be putting something in the coolers so the boys could go to haul a couple of days a week. Now we’ve got nothing.
Comm. Lapointe: And that is the kind of stuff Terry will be discussing next week. I don’t know if the other states can do that.
The Chair halted the discussion.
D. Rice: This is a very hot topic. The one thing George is trying to point out is that at the ASMFC level and the herring section, and he’s accurate on this, is that this is politics, a lot of this is politics and everybody in the room knows it. One of the big problems is a couple of Maine guys were the guys that deliberately broke the gentlemen’s agreement this year so the argue for that point, I’m not saying we shouldn’t argue for that point and go ahead and do that, but it make sit very difficult to argue for the point when the Maine guys are the ones who broke it. It doesn’t give you much of a leg to stand on and we don’t have all of the votes. The point of landings only, yes, I think officially everybody is behind that.
T. Stockwell: Gary’s comments highlight the fact that no one is happy with this. Effectively the same boats that had 29,000mt of the fish solely available to them form whatever state they are from; the first of October there will be 12,000mt. We made the original agreement for 12,500 – 15,000mt. It will be around 12,000 that’s available to everybody. The state vs federal, seine vs midwater boats, is something that has been chasing us by the tail ever since we’ve been discussing herring. The commission will be initiating another action at the fall meeting to address how to space things out. Clearly the spawning areas aren’t working. The days out aren’t working. Your point about spacing things out so that everybody has an opportunity through the season is spot on. We had some of our big seine boats that actually used the mid water boats to carry their product. They caught an incredible amount of fish in the end of July and August and got trucked down to Gloucester and New Bedford where it is frozen and being sold back to the lobster fishery now ad over inflated prices. That’s a huge problem to fix. But at this point we’re going to limp our way through the season. If we get one more night of 1,000mt for a seine only and six nights probably more fishing of a combined purse seine/mid water trawl, it will go quick.
A. West: I think the state should look at, as opposed to days out and all these other regulations, is take a look at what the fishery is in the summer in terms of the number of boats that are permitted to fish and put a landing restriction. I don’t know what the correct number is, say 200mt a night per license and enforce it because they have to report their landings. It is ridiculous that a 60 ft seiner goes out and loads a boat which I’m very familiar with and comes in to the dock with close to 400mt aboard; whereas another boat goes out with 3 carriers plus themselves and puts 300mt aboard. That is all fine and well but I know there was excess fish this summer because I couldn’t put my hands on a fish last summer because things were tighter. But this year I was getting plenty of fish and fish were going south to Massachusetts; had we been able to slow it down through a landing restriction like that I think the right amount would have hit the bait market and a right amount would have come to us and a lot less would have gone south and there’d be more in the water right now to take. It’s just something to consider.
T. Stockwell: In addition to that the Maine lobster fishery alone used 60,000mt a year. Last year we had 30,000mt of New Brunswick weir fish that supplemented the bait market so the lobster industry hasn’t had to think about whether they would have fresh bait when I go to haul tomorrow. At the last section meeting was the first time we had a significant amount of lobstermen attend. Dana was there and a huge contingency from the Stonington area, Patrice from MLA, there was good representation. A number of lobstermen from the north shore of Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well. This is critically important now for the lobster industry to work with this process to help not only for their business, I think what would work for their business and extending the season would also work for some of the smaller state waters boats. There’s no reason why boats like Gary’s can’t have an opportunity to fish August and September every week and not have to a lot of the fish taken by the minority of the boats in the beginning of the season. It is wrong, we’re going to fix it, and the season is going to end soon.
D. Rice: we would have had this, initially, the same problem by a different degree last year at 50,000mt. The only thing was 19,000mt came out of the New Brunswick weir fishery; they created a market for them. So basically they got through last year. At 45,000mt this year with nothing coming out of New Brunswick we’re in a mess. People have tried to work at this process. A lot of people have put in a lot of time and effort but it had to come to a head. The industry has to run out of bait before they start to really react in numbers. This is a much bigger issue than a guy not being able to go catch herring regardless of whether you’re a little guy, big guy, inshore or offshore or lobster fisherman not being able to go lobster fishing or the affect of the lobster industry or imminent shut down of an industry is going to have on the economy of the state of Maine is tremendous. But it is even much bigger than that. You’re talking about a world wide lobster industry that depends on this and hundreds of millions of dollars that once you slow down this product going to its markets, if you stop that you’re going to cripple an industry and it is much bigger than just….the people that have to make this decision, the ASMFC, just have to look at some numbers and say how am I going to spread out the days, and I don’t envy their job. But not many people are aware of just how big a picture this is. The potential is, this is as big a problem as Maine has ever faced in the fishing industry. These conversations need to be happening, arguments need to happen, and everybody needs to get together. Regardless of how you cut it, divide it up or land it, 45,000mt does not work. The science quite frankly stinks. There is a lot of political influence behind the science. I think we need to have some conversations about that next year. I don’t know what is going to happen to us this year. We all need to work together and do the best we can and to take up with Terry at the last meeting when we walked in there it was pretty obvious to me we weren’t going to get any days in the month of September to go fishing. Through Terry’s efforts and the MLA and some of the people that were there, the representatives we did get a few days. To Terry, we had a survey in the Western Gulf of Maine a few days ago, right? [Yes] I’m hearing that got cancelled because they couldn’t find any fish.
T. Stockwell: I’d have to get back to you on that.
D. Rice: I’m hearing this and that is a valid questions but that is my point, not being politically correct when I say the science stinks. So if something happened and it involves a lot of other things and certain boats were out there trying to do a trawl survey a obviously is turned upside down and they need to go fishing to supply their customers and all this, in this process if we have no documented numbers just because something didn’t forward that science is going to come home to hunt us down the road. We were doing pretty well. Terry was there, but we were doing pretty well with this 60,000mt and then politics came in to play and the retrospective risk analysis was what started us down this road. It is a big change in the way we looked at the numbers. I think the main thing to remember is we all need to work together at the ASMFC and the council level and I don’t know of anybody that knows anything about science collection and trawl surveys has got as much faith at all in what is going to happen in the next 4-5 years with the change over of vessels etc. Industry needs to be aware some political pressure needs to be brought into bear on this. Otherwise we can argue with each other on this all we want but if you shut down the lobster industry in Maine or knock it down 50% the next 2-3 months it is going to have a huge effect on everybody living on the coast of Maine whether you’re a lobster fisherman, seiner or potato farmer…
D. Pecci: At risk of sounding like someone who supports the enviros on this, I don’t, it is a huge problem for the lobster industry but we also need to keep in perspective that we just can’t keep going after the resource to support the lobster industry. We have a 3.5 million dollar guiding industry in Maine that needs bait in the water so we’ve got fish to put our clients on. We’re talking about striped bass and blue fish and tuna fish and sharks. It is all good to question the science, I’ve done it several times myself but we have to look at the big picture and realize that there are other fisheries that depend on having a certain amount of forage left in the waters to support their industry’s just as much as the lobster industry needs bait to put in the bait bags.
Comm. Lapointe: When I was with the ASMFC we held a commission sponsored science forum on lobster, which provided the foundation for changing the way we looked at lobster. Not jiggering the numbers but just getting more information in to the process. When that next round of assessments comes up we may want to consider that. We’ll talk to people like Matt and others who may have some ideas on things that they should look at. Get a mix of scientists so it just doesn’t look like it is people cooking the books. Because people are watching this process and they want to make sure there’s enough chow out there for the entire environment. In response I would argue that the natural mortality rate, which is the chow for the rest of the environment, is pretty high on herring but it may need to be adjusted. But that would be an avenue to work on the science issues because we may not like it but under the new Magnuson Act passed 3 years ago and they’re now putting rules in that acceptable biological catch is going to be set by that process; there are state and federal people who sit on that board.
G. Libby: I think part of the answer was one of the first things we voted on today, changing the counting of the tags. If you’ve already got an industry that used more of the resource than what there is available then maybe fishing a little different way is part of the solution. Take the Monhegan experiment. What did they get the conversion rate down to, 0.9 or something like that, 0.9 lbs of herring to every pound of lobster? The way a lot of the guys fish going out pretty much hauling every two days is something, not always, because sometimes the bait just goes away but sometimes they’re wasting bait by not letting them set. I know my brother lets his set longer than most of them. He gets pretty consistent hauls but he’s keeping his expenses down. That may be part of the solution as well. Trying to live with these rules that we know are flawed.
D. Rice: I’d agree with that 100%; and I even to some point what David is saying. But what bothers me about the whole process is we’re thinking about doing all of these things we ought to be doing anyway as a result, my opinion, of lousy science.
B. Baines: Obviously we have too much capacity in the herring industry when they can go out and catch what they can so quickly. We’re starting to get the idea that we have too much capacity in the lobster industry and we need to work at reducing capacity. As been said the 5 to 1 exit entry ratio that is now based on tags is finally has something that is going to work for us over a long period of time. Many of the things that we’re going to have to do or should be done, I don’t’ know if we will do them or not, that will help reduce our capacity in the lobster industry. You can’t kick people out in the lobster or herring industry. So what AL said maybe that is a good idea, limiting how much they can catch in a night; as opposed to just letting guys load up and load the carriers and the greed factor kicks in and I can be just as guilty of that as anyone else when you can see it is out there you want to catch it. So we will have to have more limitations.
D. Rice: If what we’re all talking about happens that scary part or even 50% of it happens along with the economy and the industry next years you’re going to have about 25% less bait; and is about all you’re going to need because a lot of people won’t be alive in the industry.
G. Hatch: Just to answer all the questions being here, I think under Magnuson it falls under economics. We’ve got the classic case where we’re allowing over 100,000mt being caught for 9 months by boats that aren’t really utilizing the product other than to freeze it, put it away, sell it to us lobstermen at a higher price. So why aren’t we fighting Magnuson on that level with the economic hardships it is creating by allowing that which I feel isn’t, in some way our government allowing the creation of a monopoly. Basically that is what we’re doing we’re letting them have the whole run of the fishery and when we really need them, not only has Massachusetts, Rhode Island, all the economics of the herring fishery needs to fish we’re taking it away from us to allow huge quantities of bycatch when they are looking for mackerel and they’re dumping 20-30,000 tons a week of herring because they want mackerel. Or they will fill up and find mackerel and dump all the herring pump them overboard. That’s why a lot of us are screeching so for the observer program. Even though I know it won’t work because we’re discussing it here today. As Jerry sent his boat out, couldn’t find any fish, found plenty of fish but he knew what he was going to get when he found them and he didn’t want to tow on them so that the evidence comes out. That is where we’re standing. As far as the forage fish I agree 100% with that. But if we stopped the annihilation of out stock though the months that we don’t need to utilize them and utilize them when we did we’d cure all these problems. Al needs fish in the summer; we need fish in the summer, we don’t need them all to be either dumped as bycatch or used to put away in the freezer in the winter. That’s our management, that’s out government taking something away from us. Those are the avenues I think we really need to work on.
D. Rice: I’m jumping in here one more time. A lot of us have been around forever and I think as I said earlier I think this is as critical as anything in my lifetime and probably more than most. The one thing we ought to have learned. I hope we’ve all learned from a life time of this process is not to get divided. Find out what we can do in common and all stick together and work forward. Don’t get divided and start fighting amongst ourselves otherwise all of these political indications you’re hearing, somebody else besides us will wind up owning this resource and we’ll be left holding the bag and it has happened to us before in a lot of fisheries. These conversations are important and they may take up a little extra time in places like this but we need to stick together and work with each other and see what we can pull out of this…I’m usually an optimist but I’m not really optimistic about this situation.
Other Updates, L. Churchill reviewed the upcoming hearings in October for:
Ch 11 Season, Limits, Closures (October 6, 8, 9); B. Baines and Glen Libby requested a hearing in Rockland be added, which was done subsequent to this meeting for October 20th.
Ch 7 Municipal Shellfish Conservation rules (October 14 & 15)
Ch 16 Certified Dealers and Shellfish Receiving update with Model Ordinance (October 15)
Ch 25 Lobster Zones (A, B, D, E): changes to exit ratios based on tags instead of licenses (October 20 & 21)
Other items coming down the road:
Ch 2 Licensing requirements for aquaculturists per LD2137, P.L. 2007 c. 522
Ch 8 Consolidate harvester reporting regulations – long range
Ch 24 Importation (update entire chapter)
Ch 25 Lobster Apprentice rules
Ch 49 Update Shellfish Bait Permit rules
There are no voting items for an October meeting agenda. The consensus by the members was to hold the next meeting November 19th.
Motion: (D. Temple, D. Pecci) Motion to close the meeting.
Motion continued: Unanimous to approve